The Universal Salty Taste
- Doitsu Kanmi Gosho -
There are six kinds of flavors: The first
is subtle, the second is salty, the third is pungent, the fourth is sour, the fifth is sweet and the sixth is bitter. Even
if you prepare a sumptuous feast of a hundred different dishes, it will not be fit for a great king's feast if it lacks the
single flavor of salt. Even the rarest delicacies of all the lands and seas will taste insipid without salt.
The ocean has eight mysterious qualities.
First, the ocean becomes gradually deeper and deeper. Second, its bottom is too deep to fathom. Third, its salty taste is
identical everywhere. Fourth, its tides rise and fall regularly. Fifth, it houses various treasures. Sixth, living beings
of great stature reside in it. Seventh, the ocean rids itself of corpses. Eighth, though it absorbs all rivers and heavy rainfalls,
its volume neither increases nor decreases.
The first quality, "the ocean becomes
gradually deeper and deeper," means figuratively that the Lotus Sutra gradually leads all people, from common mortals who
lack understanding to sages who have understanding, to attain the way of Buddhahood. "Its bottom is too deep to fathom" indicates
that the realm of the Lotus Sutra can be understood and shared only between Buddhas; bodhisattvas at the stage of togaku or
below cannot possibly realize it. As for the quality, "its salty taste is identical everywhere": All the various rivers, which
contain no salt, are comparable to the sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, which cannot enable anyone to attain enlightenment.
Just as the water of all rivers eventually flows into the ocean and becomes salty, so all the people of different capacities
instructed through the various provisional teachings are eventually enabled to attain the path of buddhahood by taking faith
in the Lotus Sutra. "Its tides rise and fall regularly" indicates that those who embrace the Mystic Law will surely attain
the stage of non-regression, even if they should lose their lives. "It houses various treasures" means that the practices
and virtuous deeds of all Buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as the benefits of the paramitas, are all contained within the
Mystic Law. As for the quality, "living beings of great stature reside in it," Buddhas and bodhisattvas are here referred
to as "living beings of great stature," because they possess great wisdom. The great stature, the great aspiring mind, the
great extraordinary features, the great evil-conquering forces, the great preaching, the great authority, the great occult
powers, the great compassion of these Buddhas and bodhisattvas--all originate from the Lotus Sutra. "The ocean rids itself
of corpses" means that through the Lotus Sutra one can free himself for all eternity from the offense of slandering the Law
or of having incorrigible disbelief. The eighth quality, "its volume neither increases nor decreases," means that the heart
of the Lotus Sutra is the teaching that all people equally possess the Buddha nature.
The salty water in a tub or jar of pickled
vines ebbs and flows in exact accordance with the tides of the ocean. A votary of the Lotus Sutra who is subjected to imprisonment
is like the salt in a tub or jar, while Shakyamuni Buddha who freed himself from the burning house is like the salt of the
ocean. To imprison a votary of the Lotus Sutra is to imprison Shakyamuni Buddha himself. How astonished Bonten, Taishaku and
the Four Heavenly Kings must be to witness it! The Ten Goddesses pledged to punish anyone who persecutes a votary by splitting
his head into seven pieces. When will this vow be fulfilled, if not now?
Virulent sores broke out suddenly all
over the body of King Ajatashatru, who had imprisoned King Bimbisara. How can one who imprisons a votary of the Lotus Sutra
avoid the suffering of breaking out in sores all over his body?