The Unity of Husband and Wife
As for false teachings that gouge out the eyes and delude the minds of the entire Japanese populace, in the final analysis, there is none more mistaken than that upheld by the teachers of Shingon. But let us set this matter aside.
Although the ten similes seem to illustrate the relative merit of the Lotus Sutra and all the other sutras, this was not the Buddha's true intention in expounding them. His aim was to compare the votaries of all other sutras with the votary of the Lotus Sutra, and to show that, while the votary of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun or the moon, the votaries of the other sutras are like stars or torches.
How do we know this? The eighth simile is followed by a most vital passage. It reads: "He who can accept and uphold this sutra will be like this too - he will be first among all the multitude of living beings." This twenty-two-character passage is the heart of the entire sutra, the eye of all living beings. Its meaning is that the votary of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun, the moon, King Bonten, or the Buddha, while the votaries of the Dainichi Sutra are like the stars, the streams and rivers, or common mortals.
For this reason, the Buddha surely considers anyone in this world who embraces the Lotus Sutra, whether man or woman, monk or nun, to be the lord of all living beings, and Bonten and Taishaku most certainly hold that person in reverence. When I think in this way, my joy is beyond expression.
Moreover, in pondering this sutra passage day and night and reading it morning and evening, I realize that the votary it refers to is not just any votary of the Lotus Sutra. Since "he" in the phrase "he who can accept and uphold this sutra" means "person" in an unqualified sense, I had thought that it must indicate anyone among the monks, nuns, laymen or laywomen in this world who believe in the Lotus Sutra. This, however, is not so. For, in a subsequent passage where the Buddha again refers to this person, he says, "If there is a woman..."
When I, Nichiren, read the sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, I have not the slightest wish to become a woman. One sutra condemns women as emissaries of hell. Another describes them as large snakes. Still another likens them to bent and twisted trees. And there is even a sutra that describes them as people who have scorched the seed of Buddhahood.
Buddhist scriptures are not alone in this regard; non-Buddhist writings also [disdain women]. Someone named Jung Ch'i-ch'i, for example, sings in praise of three pleasures, one of which is the pleasure of not having been born into the world as a woman. It is widely accepted that disaster had its origins in the three women. Only in the Lotus Sutra do we read that a woman who embraces this sutra not only excels all other women but also surpasses all men.
Even though she may be slandered by everyone, for a woman, there is ultimately no greater happiness than to be loved by the man she holds dearest. Let others hate you if they will. What have you to complain of, if you are cherished by Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all the other Buddhas in the ten directions, as well as by Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon and others? As long as you are praised by the Lotus Sutra, what cause have you for discontent?
You say that you have now reached the unlucky age of thirty-three, and for that reason sent offerings. I have reported this to Shakyamuni Buddha, the Lotus Sutra and the god of the sun. A person's body has a left and a right shoulder, on which there are two gods, one named Domyo and the other, Dosho. These are two deities whom Bonten, Taishaku, and the gods of the sun and moon have assigned to each person in order to protect him. From the time he enters his mother's womb until the end of his life, they accompany him like his shadow or like his eyes. If he commits an evil act or performs a good deed, they report everything to the heavenly gods without omitting even a detail as minute as a dewdrop or a speck of dust. This is related in the Kegon Sutra and is cited by the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai in the eighth volume of his Maka Shikan.
He states, however, that if a person's faith is weak, even though she be a woman who embraces the Lotus Sutra, she will be forsaken. For example, if a commanding general is fainthearted, his soldiers will become cowards. If a bow is weak, the bowstring will be slack. If the wind is gentle, the waves will not rise high. All this is in accord with the principles of nature.
Now [your husband] Saemon is a believer in the Lotus Sutra, without peer among the Buddhist lay believers in Japan. Being married to such a man, you also are foremost among the women in Japan. Because you live for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha surely regards you as equal to the dragon king's daughter herself. The character for woman implies "to depend." The wisteria depends on the pine tree, and a woman depends on a man. Make Saemon your teacher and be guided in the faith of the Lotus Sutra.
The bad luck of your thirty-third year will turn into the happiness of your thirty-third year. That is what is meant by the passage "The seven difficulties vanish, the seven blessings at once appear." You will grow younger, and your good fortune will accumulate.
The twenty-seventh day of the first month