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 for 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 possibly 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
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
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
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 his 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