bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching ［迹化の菩薩］ ( shakke-no-bosatsu): Bodhisattvas who are followers of a provisional Buddha. They include the bodhisattvas Manjushrī, Universal Worthy, Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, and Medicine King. A provisional Buddha is a Buddha who, in order to save people, assumes a transient identity that accords with the people’s capacity, without revealing his true identity. In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and in the theoretical teaching (first fourteen chapters) of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni did not reveal his true identity, i.e., he did not reveal himself as a Buddha who had attained enlightenment in the remote past, but assumed the provisional status of a Buddha who had first attained enlightenment in that lifetime in India. The bodhisattvas whom he taught in this capacity are the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching.
This term is used in contrast with the bodhisattvas of the essential teaching, who are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, or followers of the Buddha who has revealed his original enlightenment and true identity in the essential teaching (latter fourteen chapters) of the Lotus Sutra. According to Nichiren, the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching are said to appear in the Former Day and Middle Day of the Law and spread provisional Mahayana or the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. They are contrasted with the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who appear in the Latter Day of the Law and devote themselves to spreading the Mystic Law, or the essence of the Lotus Sutra.