A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of
A sage is one who fully understands
the three existences of life-past, present and future. The Three Sovereigns, the Five Emperors and the Three Sages referred
to in Confucianism understood only the present; they knew neither the past nor the future. Brahmanists, however, were able
to see eighty thousand kalpas into the past and the future, thus in a small way resembling sages. People of the two vehicles
of Hinayana teachings were aware of the law of cause and effect working throughout the past, present and future. Hence they
were superior to the Brahmanists.
The Hinayana bodhisattvas passed three
asamkhya kalpas in their practice; the bodhisattvas of the connecting teaching did as many kalpas as there are dust particles;
and the bodhisattvas of the specific teaching spent myriad kotis of kalpas attaining each of the many stages of practice.
In the theoretical teaching of the Lotus
Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha described the period of sanzen-jintengo in the past. This teaching surpasses all the previous ones
of his preaching life. Moreover, in the essential teaching of the sutra, the Buddha revealed the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo,
all the kalpas since the distant past, as well as matters pertaining to countless kalpas in the future.
From the above it is clear that a thorough
understanding of both the past and the future is intrinsic to the nature of a sage. Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings,
accurately predicted the near future, saying that he would enter nirvana in three months’ time. Can there then be any
doubt about his prediction for the distant future, that the Lotus Sutra will spread abroad widely in the last five-hundred-year
period after his passing! With such perception one can see the distant future by looking at what is close at hand. One can
infer what will be from what exists in the present. This is the meaning of [the passage from the Lotus Sutra that says, "This
reality consists of the appearance. . . and their consistency from beginning to end."
Who should be acknowledged as the votary
of the Lotus Sutra in the last five-hundred-year period! I did not trust my own wisdom, but because the rebellion and invasion
that I had predicted have occurred, I can now trust it. I do not declare this out of pride.
My disciples should know this: I, Nichiren,
am the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Since I follow in the footsteps of Bodhisattva Fukyo, those who despise and slander me will
have their heads broken into seven pieces, whereas those who believe in me will amass good fortune as high as Mount Sumeru.
Question: Why is it that those who slander
you have not yet had their heads broken into seven pieces?
Answer: Since ancient times, of all
those who slandered sages other than the Buddha, only one or two have suffered punishment by having their heads broken. The
offense of defaming Nichiren is not by any means limited to only one or two persons. The entire populace of Japan have in
fact [slandered Nichiren and] had their heads broken. What else do you think caused the great earthquake of the Shoka era
and the huge comet of the Bun’ei era! I am the foremost sage in the entire land of Jambudvipa.
Nevertheless, all people, from the ruler
on down to the common people, have despised and slandered me, attacked me with swords and staves, and even exiled me. That
is why Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings incited a neighboring country to punish
our land. This is clearly described in the Daijuku and Ninno sutras, the Nirvana Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. No matter what
prayers may be offered, if the people fail to heed me, this country will suffer calamities such as those that occurred on
Iki and Tsushima.
My disciples, you should believe what
I say and watch what happens. These things do not occur because I myself am respectworthy, but because the power of the Lotus
Sutra is supreme. If I declare myself before the people, they will think that I am boastful, but if I humble myself before
them, they will despise the sutra. The taller the pine tree, the longer the wisteria vine hanging from it. The deeper the
source, the longer the stream. How fortunate, how joyful! In this impure land, I alone enjoy true happiness.