Teaching, Practice and Proof
During the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law, those who embraced Hinayana or provisional Mahayana Buddhism as the basis of their faith and practiced these teachings in earnest could generally obtain the benefit of enlightenment. However, though they believed that this benefit had come directly from the sutras on which they had chosen to rely, in light of the Lotus Sutra, no benefit ever originated from any such provisional teachings. The reason [they were able to attain enlightenment] is that all these people had already established a bond with the Lotus Sutra during the lifetime of the Buddha, though the results they gained varied accordingly to whether or not their receptivity had fully matured. Those whose capacity to understand the Lotus Sutra was fully mature attained enlightenment during the lifetime of the Buddha, while those whose capacity was inferior and immature [could not attain enlightenment at that time. However, they] reappeared in the Former Day of the Law, and, by embracing provisional Mahayana teachings such as the Vimalakirti, Shiyaku, Kammuryoju, Ninno and Hannya sutras, they were able to gain the same proof of enlightenment obtained by those of higher capacity during the Buddha's lifetime.
Thus the Former Day of the Law possessed all three: teaching, practice and proof, whereas in the Middle Day of the Law, there were teaching and practice but no longer any proof. Now in the Latter Day of the Law, only the teaching remains; there is neither practice nor proof. There is no longer a single person who has formed a relationship with Shakyamuni Buddha. Those who possessed the capacity to gain enlightenment through either the provisional or true Mahayana sutras have long since disappeared. In this impure and evil age, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Juryo chapter, the heart of the essential teaching, should be planted as the seed of Buddhahood for the first time in the hearts of all those who commit the five cardinal sins and slander the True Law. This is what is indicated in the Juryo chapter where it states: "I leave this good medicine here or you now. You should take it and not worry that it will not cure you."
In the distant past, in the Middle Day of the Law of the Buddha Ionno, not a single person knew of the three treasures. However, Bodhisattva Fukyo appeared, and to all people he declared the teaching of twenty-four characters which Ionno Buddha had expounded. Not one of them listened to this twenty-four-character teaching, but they were later reborn with Bodhisattva Fukyo, and were at last able to obtain the benefit of enlightenment. This was solely because they had already received the seed of Buddhahood when they first heard the teaching. The same thing occurs in our present era. Bodhisattva Fukyo's age was the Middle Day of the Law, whereas this age is the defiled Latter Day of the Law. He was a practitioner of shozuiki, and I, Nichiren, am a common mortal of myoji-soku, [both indicating the initial stages of practice]. He sowed the seed of Buddhahood with the twenty-four characters, while I do so with only the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. Although the age is different, the process of attaining Buddhahood is exactly the same.
Question: You have mentioned above that the teaching, practice and proof are not all present in each of the three periods of the Former, Middle and Latter Days of the Law. If so, how do you explain the Great Teacher Miao-lo's statement, "The beginning of the Latter Day of the Law will not be without inconspicuous benefit, for it is the time when the great teaching will be propagated"?
Answer: The essence of this passage is that those who obtained benefit during the Former and Middle Days of the Law received "conspicuous" benefit, because the relationship they formed with the Lotus Sutra during the lifetime of the Buddha had finally matured. On the other hand, those born today in the Latter Day of the Law receive the seed of Buddhahood for the first time, and their benefit is therefore inconspicuous. The teaching, practice and proof of this age differ greatly from those of Hinayana, provisional Mahayana, the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings or the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. There is no one now who can gain benefits like those of the Former and Middle Days of the Law. According to Miao-lo's interpretation, the benefits in the Latter Day are inconspicuous, and people can therefore neither perceive nor understand them.
Question: Is there any sutra passage which says that inconspicuous benefits are limited to the Latter Day of the Law?
Answer: A passage from the Yakuo chapter in the seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra reads: "This sutra is beneficial medicine for the illnesses of all mankind. If one is ill and can hear of this sutra, his illness will vanish immediately, and he will find perpetual youth and eternal life." The Great Teacher Miao-lo says: "To regard the last five-hundred-year period after the Buddha's passing as the time when no one can attain benefit is a superficial viewpoint. The beginning of the Latter Day of the Law will not be without inconspicuous benefit, for it is the time when the great teaching will be propagated. The last five-hundred-year period corresponds to that time."
Question: The passages you have quoted indicate that the propagation of the Lotus Sutra is limited to the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law. Yet the provisional Mahayana sutras say that their practices will still be appropriate throughout the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law. How do you reply to this?
Answer: Miao-lo states in the above-mentioned commentary that such an interpretation of the last five-hundred-year period is "superficial." From a more profound viewpoint, the Lotus Sutra will spread throughout the ten thousand years of the Latter Day. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai comments on the previously quoted passage from the Yakuo chapter, stating: "It is not only the people who live during the lifetime of the Buddha who obtain great benefits. In the fifth five hundred years, the Mystic Way shall spread and benefit mankind far into the future." Does this annotation suggest anything other than the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law? The Fumbetsu Kudoku chapter in the sixth volume of the Lotus Sutra refers to "one who is able to uphold this sutra in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law." Also the Anrakugyo chapter reads, "In the Latter Day of the Law, one who desires to teach this sutra..." These quotations refer to the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of Law. All the Buddha's teachings other than the Lotus Sutra are covered by his declaration: "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." Moreover, there are some cases where the sutras have been revised according to the understanding of those who compiled them and therefore cannot be trusted.
The scholars of the various sects remain oblivious to the fact that the Buddha sowed the seed of enlightenment when he expounded the Lotus Sutra in the past. How foolish they are! Quite unaware of the distant past of sanzen-jintengo and of gohyaku-jintengo, they abandon the mystic teaching which is pure and perfect, and sink again into the sea of the sufferings of birth and death. It is pitiful beyond description that, though born in a land where the people's capacity to receive the perfect teaching is fully mature, they vainly fall back into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. They are no different from a person who arrives at the bejeweled K'un-lun Mountains only to return to his impoverished country without a single gem, or one who enters a forest of sandalwood trees, yet goes back to the barren rubble of his own land without ever plucking the champaka's blossom. The third volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "It is as if one came from a famished land and suddenly encountered a great king's feast." And the sixth volume reads, "This, my land, remains safe and unharmed,... My pure land is indestructible."
In your letter you mentioned a difficult question put to you, as to the assertion that people are able to achieve enlightenment through their practice of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. In reply, you should quote the third volume of the Nirvana Sutra which reads, "Men of devout faith! Study and practice [until you learn that the three treasures are one and eternal]." Further, quote the third volume of the Guketsu which comments on this passage where it states, "Only those who have heard the Mahayana teachings in the remote past [are able to attain enlightenment through the practice of the Hinayana teachings]," and, "Those who achieved Buddhahood through the practice of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings were able to do so only because of their initial practice in the remote past." You should make clear that the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings provide no benefit of enlightenment whatsoever. Then explain that the same principle holds true in the time of propagation following the Buddha's death. All who obtained the proof of enlightenment in the Former and Middle Days of the Law were able to do so solely because of the relationship they had formed with the Lotus Sutra during the Buddha's lifetime.
Should your opponents repeatedly insist that the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings provide a path to enlightenment, cite to them the Buddha's own declaration in the Muryogi Sutra: "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth." Common mortals like ourselves at the initial stage of practice can expect to attain Buddhahood by relying on the teachings of the Buddha. The words of the various teachers are in themselves of no use at all. The Buddha gave strict counsel against following them with his statement in the Nirvana Sutra, "Rely on the Law and not upon persons." Remind your opponents of this and repeatedly cite the passage, "I have not yet revealed the truth," to refute their arguments. However, do not carelessly cite such passages [of the Lotus Sutra] as "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, [I will expound only the supreme Way]" or "The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines [and now must reveal the truth]." Rather, keep these teachings deep in your heart.
Another difficult question you mentioned concerns the assertion that the enlightenment indicated in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and that of the Lotus Sutra are ultimately the same. This question arises because the Kammuryoju Sutra says that those who rely upon it are able to ascend to the Pure Land [where they will eventually attain enlightenment], or because of similar assertions in other sutras. Explain this and cite again the teaching, "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth," and others, such as "Merely by provisional names and words, [I have led and instructed all living beings in order to reveal the Buddha wisdom]." If they further contend that the Kammuryoju Sutra and the Lotus Sutra were expounded during the same period of time, you should deal with this by quoting the passage from the Hosshi chapter in which the Buddha says: "Among all those [sutras] I have preached, now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand." In addition, you can quote the relevant passages from the third volume of the Hokke Gengi or the third volume of the Shakusen. Be sure, however, that you consider these sutras and annotations well, and do not quote them haphazardly.
In your letter, you also asked how to reply to the claims of the Shingon sect. First, ask upon which scriptural passage Kobo Daishi based his denunciation of the Lotus Sutra as a doctrine of childish theory and of Shakyamuni as being still in the region of darkness. If they reply by citing some sutra, ask them which of the Buddhas of the past, present or future is represented by Dainichi Buddha. Then, ask them if they are aware of the deceit perpetrated by such priests as Shan-wu-wei and Chin-kang-chih. Tell them how Shan-wu-wei deceived the priest I-hsing when he dictated to him his commentary on the Dainichi Sutra, [making it seem as though that sutra contained the principle of ichinen sanzen]. Although not the slightest indication of ichinen sanzen is to be found in the Dainichi Sutra, this false interpretation was put forth when the sutra was introduced to China. As regards the most perverted of their distortions, ask them if there is documentary proof in the teachings of any of the Buddhas of the three existences which permits them to tread on the heads of the Buddhas. If they retort in some way or other, then tell them about the Great Arrogant Brahman who used statues [of the three deities of Brahmanism and of the Buddha Shakyamuni] as the legs of his preaching platform. On other points, ask them in the same way just which sutra or treatise they can provide as proof of their assertions, and for the rest, debate with them as I have always taught you. No matter which sect you may debate, if the teachings of the Shingon sect are mentioned, clearly refute that sect's distorted views.
Next, as to the assertions of the Nembutsu sect: The priest T'an-luan defines the Nembutsu as the easy-to-practice way and the practices of all the other sects as the difficult-to-practice way. Tao-ch'o defines the Nembutsu teachings as the Pure Land teachings and all the other teachings as the Sacred Way teachings. Shan-tao distinguishes between correct and incorrect practices, while Honen enjoins people to "discard, close, ignore and abandon" all sutras other than those relating to Amida's Pure Land. Have those who cite these statements identify the exact sutra or treatise from which they are derived. Of sutras there are of course two types--true and provisional. Treatises can also be divided into two types--those which discuss Hinayana, Mahayana or Buddhism in general, and those dealing with specific sutras or chapters. Moreover, there are those treatises that are faithful to the sutras and those that distort the sutras. One should clearly master these distinctions. Ask them if they can point out any passage from among the three Pure Land sutras verifying the above-mentioned assertions. Everyone reveres the Nembutsu of Amida Buddha, but ask your opponents as before if there exists any teaching which affords a solid basis for this. In short, let them cite the sutra or treatise on which the adherents of the Nembutsu sect in both China and Japan base their denunciation of the Lotus Sutra as an incorrect practice, and urge people to discard, close, ignore and abandon it. When they fail to cite any passage which clearly validates these statements, tell them that, just as expounded in the Hiyu chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the grave offense which they commit by slandering the true teaching on the basis of provisional teachings will surely plunge them into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell, where they will be reborn again and again for kalpas without number. Let the audience judge for themselves the seriousness of the offense which derives from following the perverted doctrines of their sect and forsaking the very teaching which all the Buddhas of the three existences verified with the words: "All that you [Shakyamuni Buddha] have expounded is the truth." Could any thinking person fail to discern which is true and which is false? Then, strictly denounce the teachers of their sect.
How naive are those who cling only to the stump of one sutra without knowing which are superior and which inferior among all the sutras! Even if one cannot discern this for himself, there can be no mistaking that the Lotus Sutra is the only sutra whose truth was attested to by Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas. Should one nonetheless view the Lotus Sutra as false and misread the Buddha's words, "I have not yet revealed the truth," as "I have already revealed the truth," his distorted vision would be inferior even to that of cattle or sheep. Exactly what is meant by the passage in the Hosshi chapter: "Among all those I have preached, now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand. [Yakuo! This sutra is the mystic, essential treasury of all Buddhas...]"? Does the Muryogi Sutra not make it clear that Shakyamuni taught the practice of Buddhist austerities spanning myriad of kalpas before declaring, "In these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth"? These passages are nothing less than the Buddha's own statements of the relative superiority of the various sutras expounded during his fifty years of teaching. In turn, the relative superiority of the sutras is determined by whether or not they lead to Buddhahood.
Jikaku and Chisho held the view that, although the Lotus Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra are equal in terms of principle, the latter is superior in terms of practice. Shan-tao and Honen maintained that no practice other than the Nembutsu suits the capacity of the people in the Latter Day. The Zen sect claims to represent a special transmission apart from the sutras. Their views are as distorted as the eyesight of a person who mistakes east for west or who cannot tell north from south. Their understanding is inferior to that of cattle or sheep, and their teachings are as ambiguous as a bat, [which is neither animal nor bird]. How could they not feel terror at defying the Buddha's words: "Rely on the Law and not upon persons" and "One who slanders this sutra [immediately destroys the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world]"? They must have been possessed by devils or drunk on the evil wine of delusion.
Nothing is more certain than actual proof. Look at the horrible fates of Shan-wu-wei and I-hsing in China or of Kobo and Jikaku in Japan. Could they have met such fates if they were actually votaries of the True Law? How do you read the Kambutsu Sokai and other sutras or Bodhisattva Nagarjuna's treatise which describes the state of death? The priest I-hsing incorporated Shan-wu-wei's deceptions into his explanation of the Dainichi Sutra. Kobo denounced the Lotus Sutra as a doctrine of childish theory. Jikaku contended that the Dainichi Sutra was equal to the Lotus Sutra in terms of principle but superior in terms of practice. T'an-luan and Tao-ch'o proclaimed that the Nembutsu alone suits the people's capacity in the Latter Day. Such views are commonplace in the false teachings of sects founded on provisional sutras. No one would wish to die as these people did. Say these things mildly but firmly in a quiet voice with a calm gaze and an even expression.
In your letter you asked how to treat questions regarding the difference between the benefits of the Lotus Sutra and those of the other sutras. First of all, state that the benefit of the pre-Lotus Sutra doctrines is incomplete. Then, ask your opponents if any of the sutras upon which their sects are based were confirmed as true and valid by Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all the other Buddhas of the ten directions. Say that you have never heard of such. Taho and all the other Buddhas who were Shakyamuni's emanations assembled to testify to the truth of the Lotus Sutra; how could they possibly attest to any other sutra? A Buddha never states two contrary things. Next, ask if there is any other sutra which mentions the six difficult and nine easy acts. With the possible exception of the sutras fabricated by people after the Buddha's passing, there is not a single word or phrase in any other of the Buddha's entire fifty years of teachings which describes them. You should make all this clear.
Do the other sutras reveal that the Buddha originally attained enlightenment uncountable kalpas ago, in gohyaku-jintengo? Do they tell how the people formed a bond with the Lotus Sutra when he expounded it in the remote past of sanzen-jintengo?
What other sutra teaches that one can gain immeasurable benefit by arousing even a single moment of faith in it, or that incalculable benefits will accrue even to the fiftieth person who rejoices upon hearing of it? The other sutras do not claim that such great benefit can be obtained by even the first, second, third or tenth listener, let alone by the fiftieth. Moreover, they do not speak of even one or two dust-particle kalpas, let alone of such vast reaches of time as gohyaku-jintengo or sanzen-jintengo. Only through the Lotus Sutra was Buddhahood opened to the people of the two vehicles, and the lowly dragon king's daughter enabled to attain enlightenment in her present form. Neither the Kegon or Hannya sutras nor any other provisional Mahayana teaching expounds such wonders. [T'ien-t'ai made this quite clear when he declared that] the capacity of people of the two vehicles to attain Buddhahood was first revealed in the Lotus Sutra. We may be certain that, unlike Kobo or Jikaku, a philosopher as enlightened as the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai could not have fabricated any theories that were not based on the words or meanings of the sutras. The Lotus Sutra predicts Devadatta's future enlightenment in the land called Heavenly Way, but what other sutra asserts that such an evil man can attain Buddhahood? Even leaving all such questions aside, what other sutra reveals the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds or teaches that even plants and trees can manifest the Buddha nature? T'ien-t'ai explains the enlightenment of plants, saying that all things having color or fragrance are manifestations of the Middle Way, and Miao-lo adds that this marvelous teaching will surely shock and cause doubts in those who hear it for the first time. Can their interpretations be classed with the distorted views of Jikaku and Chisho, who claim that the Dainichi Sutra is equal to the Lotus Sutra in terms of principle but superior in terms of practice? T'ien-t'ai is one of the teachers who kept the torch of Buddhism burning as it passed through India and China to Japan. He is the saint who gained an awakening at the P'u-hsien Monastery; he is also the reincarnation of a bodhisattva and attained enlightenment by means of his inherent wisdom. How could he possible have formulated any interpretations not based on the sutras or treatises?
Is any single great matter to be found in the other sutras? The Lotus Sutra contains twenty outstanding principles. Among those twenty, the most vital is the Juryo chapter's revelation that Shakyamuni first attained Buddhahood in gohyaku-jintengo. The people may well wonder what the Buddha meant by this. Through this revelation he taught that common mortals like ourselves, who have been submerged in the sufferings of birth and death since time without beginning and who never so much as dreamed of reaching the shore of enlightenment, are in essence Buddhas originally endowed with the three enlightened properties. That is, he taught the ultimate doctrine of ichinen sanzen. From this perspective, you should assert the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra among all the Buddha's teachings.
Such a profound teaching may be brought forth in an official debate, but not during personal discussions. Should you indiscriminately mention it to whomever you meet, on any occasion or at any time, you will certainly incur punishment from all the Buddhas of the three existences. This is the principle that I have always referred to as my own inner realization.
Can even the slightest indication of this principle be found in the Dainichi Sutra? The three Pure land sutras state that about ten kalpas have passed since Amida Buddha attained enlightenment. Can this possibly compare with the Lotus Sutra's revelation of Shakyamuni's original enlightenment in gohyaku-jintengo? Meet each argument with rebuttals such as these, citing each quotation in its proper context. Then, tell your opponents to stop and consider this: It is precisely because the Lotus Sutra is so lofty that Taho Buddha came from far away to testify to its truth and that all the other Buddhas assembled to join him. Then, Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas attested that the sutra is free from falsehood, extending their tongues all the way to the Brahma Heaven. Innumerable bodhisattvas appeared from beneath the earth and were specifically entrusted with the transmission of Myoho-renge-kyo to all the people throughout the world in this impure and evil latter age. Was it not precisely because these bodhisattvas were the Buddha's envoys that he denied all of the other eighty myriads of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas, saying, "Desist, men of devout faith"? If, as is the way with the adherents of misleading sects, they demand that you cite documentary evidence for these statements, quote the Yujutsu chapter of the Lotus Sutra, as well as the ninth volume of the Hokke Mongu and the ninth volume of the Hokke Mongu Ki which clarify the three reasons for the rejection of the bodhisattvas from other worlds and the three reasons for the emergence of the bodhisattvas of the essential teaching. Herein lies the matter of utmost importance for Nichiren and his followers.
Your opponents may attempt to attack you by citing the passage from the Daichido Ron which states: "If one denounces the teachings others follow out of love for his own, then even if he observes the precepts, he will be destined to fall into the path of evil." Ask them whether they know why Nagarjuna wrote this admonition, and if Nagarjuna could possibly have been ignorant of how serious an offense it is to slander the true teaching by clinging to provisional teachings. He stated, "The various sutras are not secret teachings; only the Lotus Sutra is secret." He declared that the Lotus Sutra alone is the seed of enlightenment, likening it to a great physician. Is it possible that he later had misgivings about this, and therefore wrote the above admonition? If so, he would have been directly contradicting the Buddha's own words, for the Lotus Sutra states, "Honestly discarding the provisional teachings," and, "Never accept even a single phrase from the other sutras." It is hardly conceivable. Nagarjuna was a great bodhisattva who appeared in accordance with the Buddha's prediction, as well as a scholar in the direct lineage of Shakyamuni's teaching. He may well have written this admonition in his treatise because he foresaw that such priests as Kobo and T'an-luan would slander the Lotus Sutra, the teaching which befits this age of the Latter Day of the Law. Reproach your opponents for not knowing the meaning of the words they cite. Tell them: "Are not you yourselves followers of those 'destined to fall into the path of evil'? Are you not to be counted among those who will suffer for numberless kalpas to come? How pitiful!"
In his appeal to Regent Hojo Tokimune, Ryokan of the Ritsu sect stated as follows: "Of late I am most vexed by the priest called Nichiren who proclaims that those observing the precepts are destined to fall into hell. What sutra or treatise states such a thing? Moreover, even though there is scarcely anyone in Japan today, whether of high or low rank, who does not chant the Nembutsu, he asserts that the Nembutsu forms the karmic cause for falling into the hell of incessant suffering. On what sutra is this based? I would like to ask Nichiren what reliable proof he has to justify these statements...." He sent the government six such questions concerning in general whether or not enlightenment can be achieved through the practice of the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. If Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple again lets it be known, as he claims in his petition, that he desires to meet and debate with me, submit a petition to the government to meet with Ryokan, and say to him: "My teacher Nichiren incurred the displeasure of the government and was exiled to the province of Sado in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271). In the first month of the eleventh year of Bun'ei, he was pardoned and returned to Kamakura. On his return he remonstrated with Hei no Saemon about various matters and then secluded himself deep in the mountains of Kai Province. He has stated that even if he were to be summoned by the emperor or empress, he will never emerge from his retirement to debate his teachings with the scholars of other sects. Therefore, although I, his disciple, am a mere novice and my knowledge of his teachings is less than a hair from the hides of nine head of cattle, if anyone comes forth to state the doubts he has about the Lotus Sutra, I will do my best to reply to them." During the subsequent debate, explain my teachings in direct response to your opponent's questions.
Moreover, when you must reply to the six difficult questions posed in Ryokan's appeal, bear in mind, as I have always said, that Nichiren's disciples cannot accomplish anything if they are cowardly. As you debate the relative superiority and depth of the Lotus Sutra and other sutras and whether or not they lead to enlightenment, remember that the Shakyamuni Buddha described in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and even in the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra is no one to be in awe of; even less so are bodhisattvas at the stage of togaku. Followers of sects based on the provisional teachings are of still less account. As you debate, bear in mind that because we embrace the Lotus Sutra, our position is like that of the heavenly king Daibonten, and it is not at all wrong to regard those who hold to lesser teachings as our subjects or even as barbarians.
The adherents of the Ritsu sect do violence to the precepts which exceeds even that of a crumbling mountain or a flooding river. Far from attaining Buddhahood, they will not even be able to be reborn in the world of Humanity or Heaven. The Great Teacher Miao-lo states, "If one observes but a single precept, he will be born as a human being. But if he breaks even a single precept, he will instead fall into the three evil paths." Who, among Ryokan's followers in the Ritsu sect, embraces even one of the precepts set forth in the Saiho, the Shobonen, and other sutras, or truly observes the rules of conduct expounded in the Agon and other Hinayana or Mahayana sutras? Without doubt they are all destined to fall into the three evil paths, or even sink into the hell of incessant suffering. How pitiful they are! You should tell them so and reproach them by citing the Hoto chapter's explanation of what "one who observes the precepts" truly means. Then, pausing briefly, tell them that the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, contain all the benefits amassed by the beneficial practices and meritorious deeds of all the Buddhas throughout the past, present and future. Then, how can this phrase not include the benefits obtained by observing all of the Buddha's precepts? Once the practitioner embraces this perfectly-endowed mystic precept, he cannot break it, even if he should try. It is therefore called the precept of the diamond chalice. Only by observing this very precept have the Buddhas of the three existences obtained the properties of the Law, wisdom and action, which are each without beginning or end. The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai wrote of this precept, "The Buddha kept it secret and did not transmit it in any other sutra." Now in the Latter Day of the Law, if any person embraces Myoho-renge-kyo and practices it in accordance with the Buddha's teaching--whether he be wise or foolish, priest or lay believer, or of high or low position--he cannot fail to attain Buddhahood. For precisely this reason, Shakyamuni declared, in reference to the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the impure and evil age after the Buddha's passing, that "[concerning this man's attainment of Buddhahood,] there can assuredly be no doubt." On the other hand, those who practice the provisional teachings against the admonition of Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas will definitely fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Now that so wondrous a precept has been revealed, none of the precepts expounded in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, or in the theoretical teaching itself, have the slightest power to benefit people. Since they provide not the slightest benefit, it is totally useless to observe them, even for a single day.
At the time when the mystic precept of the essential teaching is to spread, there will doubtless be omens never witnessed in any previous age. The great earthquake of the Shoka era and the huge comet of the Bun'ei era were two such signs. But who among our contemporaries, what sect of Buddhism, is actually propagating the teaching of [the Three Great Secret Laws, including] the true object of worship and the high sanctuary of the essential teaching? Not a single person carried out this task during the 2,220 years and more following the Buddha's passing. Now, more than 700 years after Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the reign of the thirtieth emperor Kimmei, the Great Law never heard of in previous ages is spreading throughout Japan. How reassuring it is that not only the people here but those of India, China and the entire world shall attain Buddhahood!
Concerning the teaching, practice and proof which I stressed earlier, [if we speak with respect to the Great Law,] then the Latter Day of the Law possesses all three, just like the Former Day of the Law with respect to Shakyamuni's teaching. Jogyo, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, has already made his advent in this world, so the Great Law, the essence of the Lotus Sutra, will spread without fail. For the people of Japan and China as well as the people of all other countries of the world, it will be an event as rare as seeing the udumbara flower blossom to herald the advent of a gold-wheel-turning king. In the first forty-two years of the Buddha's teachings, as well as in the theoretical teaching or the first fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sutra, he kept this Great Law secret and did not preach it, expounding it only in the revelation portion of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra.
I have heard that when the priest Ryokan knew I was far away in a distant province, he told everyone how he wished I would hasten to Kamakura so that he might debate with me and dispel the people's doubts. Demand to know if praising oneself and disparaging others in this fashion is one of the precepts followed by the Ritsu sect. What is more, when I actually did return to Kamakura, Ryokan shut 132his gates and forbade anyone to enter. At times, he even feigned illness, saying that he had caught a chill. Tell him, "I am not Nichiren but merely one of his disciples. Though I am poor at debating and my understanding of his teachings is incomplete, I fully agree with his assertion that the Ritsu sect is traitorous." When in public debate, although the teachings that you advocate are perfectly consistent with the truth, you should never on that account be impolite or abusive, or display a conceited attitude. Such conduct would be disgraceful. Order your thoughts, words and actions carefully and be prudent when you meet with others in debate.
The twenty-first day of the third month
To the priest Sammi Ajari