sowing, maturing, and harvesting ［種熟脱］ ( shu-juku-datsu): The three-phase process by which a Buddha leads people to Buddhahood. In The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, T’ien-t’ai (538–597) set forth this concept based on the Lotus Sutra, comparing the process of people attaining Buddhahood to the growth of a plant. In the first stage, “sowing,” the Buddha plants the seeds of Buddhahood in the lives of the people, just as a gardener sows seeds in the soil. Nichiren (1222–1282) states in The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood, “The Buddha [is] like the sower, and the people like the field” (748). In the second stage, the Buddha nurtures the seeds he has planted by helping the people practice the teaching and leading them gradually to Buddhahood. This stage is compared to the gardener’s care for the sprouting and growth of a plant and is called “maturing.” In the third and final stage, the Buddha leads the people to reap the harvest of enlightenment, enabling them to attain Buddhahood. This is comparable to the gardener reaping the fruit of a plant and is called “harvesting.”
The process of sowing, maturing, and harvesting is described as taking place over countless kalpas. From the viewpoint of the essential teaching (latter half) of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni first planted the seeds of enlightenment in the lives of his disciples numberless major world system dust particle kalpas in the past. He then nurtured them as the sixteenth son of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence major world system dust particle kalpas in the past and later as the Buddha in India by preaching the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and the theoretical teaching (first half) of the Lotus Sutra. He finally brought them to fruition, or enlightenment, with the “Life Span” (sixteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Seen from this perspective, Shakyamuni’s essential teaching was expounded for the purpose of reaping the harvest of enlightenment and accordingly is called the teaching of the harvest. The pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and the theoretical teaching, through which Shakyamuni nurtured his disciples’ capacity for enlightenment, are regarded as the teaching of maturing. As a whole, Nichiren refers to Shakyamuni’s teachings as the Buddhism of the harvest.
In The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind, Nichiren states: “He [Shakyamuni] planted the seeds of Buddhahood in their lives in the remote past [numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago] and nurtured the seeds through his preaching as the sixteenth son of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence [major world system dust particle kalpas ago] and through the first four flavors of teachings [the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings] and the theoretical teaching in this life. Then with the essential teaching he brought his followers to the stage of near-perfect enlightenment and finally to that of perfect enlightenment” (369–70). In the same work, Nichiren writes: “The essential teaching of Shakyamuni’s lifetime and that revealed at the beginning of the Latter Day are both pure and perfect [in that both lead directly to Buddhahood]. Shakyamuni’s, however, is the Buddhism of the harvest, and this is the Buddhism of sowing. The core of his teaching is one chapter and two halves, and the core of mine is the five characters of the daimoku alone” (370). Though “one chapter and two halves” indicates that Shakyamuni planted the seeds of Buddhahood in the lives of his followers, the teaching of sowing is “hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter” of the Lotus Sutra. More specifically, it is hidden in the sentence “Originally I practiced the bodhisattva way.”
Nichiren referred to the hidden teaching as “the seed of Buddhahood, that is, the three thousand realms in a single moment of life” in The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind (365). In The Opening of the Eyes, he writes: “This is the doctrine of original cause and original effect. It reveals that the nine worlds are all present in beginningless Buddhahood and that Buddhahood is inherent in the beginningless nine worlds. This is the true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, the true hundred worlds and thousand factors, the true three thousand realms in a single moment of life” (235). This indicates the eternal Mystic Law that enables people to reveal Buddhahood from their beginningless nine worlds. Originally Shakyamuni practiced the bodhisattva way as a common mortal with this Law as his teacher and thus realized and manifested his inherent Buddhahood.
In contrast with Shakyamuni’s Buddhism, Nichiren identified his teaching as the Buddhism of sowing and defined the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the teaching for planting the seeds of enlightenment. Because Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the law of the simultaneity of cause and effect, it contains within it all three stages of sowing, maturing, and harvesting. The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra refers to two types of people: those who [received the seeds of Buddhahood and] have good roots and those who do not. According to Nichiren, people in the Latter Day of the Law never received the seeds of Buddhahood from the Buddha in the past and must therefore first receive the seeds of Buddhahood in their lives. Then they can complete the whole process of maturing and harvesting in this lifetime. Nichiren established the object of devotion called the Gohonzon, embodying in it the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a means for people to plant the seeds of Buddhahood in their lives and reap the fruit of Buddhahood. In Nichiren’s teaching, the practice for doing so involves chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Gohonzon. See also teacher of the true cause; teacher of the true effect.