Point One, regarding the “Expedient Means” chapter
(Translator’s note: According to Words and Phrases, there are three types of hōben, or expedient means. The first is known as hōyū hōben, or “adaptations of the Law expedient means,” teachings that were preached in accordance with people’s capacities and tastes. They stress the truth of impermanence and the severing of attachment to the phenomenal world and correspond to Hinayana and early Mahayana. The second is called nōtsū hōben, or “expedient means that can lead one in,” teachings that the Buddha preached as a gateway to the true teaching. The third is called himyō hōben, or “the secret and wonderful expedient means,” which corresponds to the ultimate truth. “Secret and wonderful” refers to the fact that the Buddha concealed the truth for the first more than forty years of his preaching life, explaining it only in the Lotus Sutra. Unlike the first two expedients, the third type not only leads people to the truth but simultaneously contains the truth.)
Words and Phrases, volume three, states, “The hō of hōben (expedient means) means secret. The ben means wonderful. ‘Wonderful’ leads to ‘secret’; this is identical with the truth, which is kept secret. When we examine what is meant by the priceless jewel sewn into the lining of the man’s robe (chapter eight, Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples), we see that it is in no way different from the jewel in the topknot of the king (chapter 21fourteen, Peaceful Practices). And the man who is called a hired laborer is in fact no different from or apart from the rich man’s son (chapter four, Belief and Understanding). All of these similes point to what is secret, what is wonderful.
“It is as the Lotus Sutra says: ‘Only I [Shakyamuni] understand its [the Law’s] characteristics, / and the Buddhas of the ten directions do likewise’ (chapter two). ‘Stop, stop, no need to speak! / My Law is wonderful and difficult to ponder’ (ibid.). Therefore the term ‘secret’ is used to explain the hō of hōben, and the term ‘wonderful’ is used to explain the ben. This is in fact the meaning that underlies this chapter. So it is called the ‘Expedient Means’ chapter.”
On “The Words and Phrases,” volume three, says, “The third type of expedient means is characterized as secret and wonderful. Because it can be termed wonderful, it is identical [with the truth]. . . . The perfect [teaching] is regarded as identical [with the truth], but the three [teachings—the Tripitaka, the connecting, and the specific teachings] are characterized as not identical [with the truth]. Therefore it is in contrast to these non-identical teachings that the teaching [of the Lotus Sutra] is characterized as being identical [with the truth].”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The priceless “jewel” mentioned in the passage of commentary from Words and Phrases is the jewel sewn into the lining of the robe, which is the same as the jewel in the king’s topknot. And the hired laborer is absolutely identical with the rich man’s son. But in the end persons who slander the Law and fail to have faith in it are followers of the provisional teachings outside the body of the truth, the teachings represented by two types of expedient means known as “adaptations of the Law” and those “that can lead one in.” For that reason, such persons cannot recognize [that the two jewels or the two persons in the above similes are] the same and no different from each other.
Now Nichiren and his followers, who recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are observers of the “secret and wonderful expedient 22means,” teachings that are within the body of the truth. Therefore, after the title of the sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo, comes the chapter entitled “Expedient Means.”
In explaining the statement in Words and Phrases that “this is identical with the truth, which is kept secret,” in his On “The Words and Phrases,” volume three, Miao-lo says, “The perfect [teaching] is regarded as identical [with the truth].” And if identical means the perfect [teaching], then this must be another name for the Lotus Sutra. Identical must indicate the truth that ordinary people are identical with the highest level of being, or the Buddha of the true aspect of all phenomena. Perfect refers to the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. Though the words “identical” and “perfect” are different, they are each another name for “wonderful.” That all living beings are in fact the Buddha of the true aspect of all phenomena is a wonderful thing, an unfathomable thing! But persons who slander the Law are at present unaware of this fact. Therefore it is referred to as being secret.
The Record also says: The three thousand worlds of the Dharma-realm may be termed secret and wonderful. Secret means strict [or without a single exception]. The three thousand worlds, every single one of them, exit [in one’s life]. There is nothing more unfathomable than this! Even persons who are called great slanderers of the Law will in time come to accept and uphold Myoho-renge-kyo—this is the purpose of the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
Now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren and his followers are carrying out this task correctly. To take the persons and teachings of the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra and lead them into the body of teachings of the Lotus Sutra—this is the purpose of the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This is also termed the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form, or “their consistency from beginning to end” (chapter two), the consistency of the ten factors.
Again, the “Expedient Means” chapter represents the Ten Worlds, or in another sense it represents ignorance or darkness. 23Myoho-renge-kyo, or the Lotus Sutra, stands at the apex of the Ten Worlds, and at the same time represents the Dharma nature. It exemplifies the principle that earthly desires are identical with enlightenment, that the sufferings of birth and death are identical with nirvana.
“The perfect [teaching] is regarded as identical [with the truth]” refers to the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. “Wonderful” and “identical [with the truth]” are synonymous. “Perfect” and “wonderful” are the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life expressed in a single word. “Perfect” refers to the true aspect of all phenomena. A commentary [The Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight,” volume one] explains the word “perfect” by saying, “Perfect means perfect and interfused or perfect and full.” “Perfect and interfused” refers to the theoretical teaching; “perfect and full” refers to the essential teaching. “Perfect” also refers to the two practices of concentration and insight. Again, it refers to the fact that we are made up of the two elements of body and mind. The expression of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, in a single word, is the secret storehouse of the Eshin school of teachings.
In the character en 圓, or “perfect,” the outer enclosure 囗 represents a single moment of life, while the element 員 (literally, number) represents three thousand realms. The principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life is unfathomable. This wonderful principle was never expounded in the three teachings previous to the Lotus Sutra, the Tripitaka teaching, the connecting teaching, and the specific teaching. Therefore it is called “secret.”
From all this you should understand that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo represents the expedient means of the single mind or life.1 Myoho-renge-kyo represents the ninth consciousness, while the Ten Worlds represent the levels from the eighth consciousness on down.
You should think all these matters over carefully. The hō of 24hōben may also refer to the ten directions. The ten directions are the same as the Ten Worlds. The ben of hōben indicates something that is unfathomable in nature.
Point Two, regarding the words “The wisdom of the Buddhas is infinitely profound and immeasurable. The door to this wisdom is difficult to understand and difficult to enter. Not one of the voice-hearers or pratyekabuddhas is able to comprehend it.”
Words and Phrases, volume three, says, “First the passage praises the true wisdom, and then it praises the provisional wisdom. ‘True’ here refers to ‘the wisdom of the Buddhas.’ This is not the ‘true and provisional’ that applies to the teachings expounded in accordance with the capacities of people, the three teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra, the Tripitaka, the connecting, and the specific teachings. Therefore the text describes it as the wisdom ‘of the Buddhas.’ It is a manifestation of the truth the Buddhas realized for themselves, and therefore it is termed ‘wisdom.’
“The essence of this wisdom is the three kinds of wisdom of a single mind. ‘Infinitely profound and immeasurable’ are the words of praise applied to this wisdom. The true wisdom of the Buddhas is of such depth that it can clearly penetrate to the very base of universal truth; therefore it is described as ‘infinitely profound.’ And it is of such width that it extends to the very limits of the Dharma-realm; therefore it is described as ‘immeasurable.’ ‘Infinitely profound and immeasurable’ refers to its vertical and horizontal dimensions.
“To employ a simile, if the roots of a tree reach far down, then its branches will flourish; and if the source of a river is far away, its flow will be long-lasting. Such are the terms used to describe true wisdom. And those used to describe provisional wisdom follow the same pattern.
“When the sutra speaks of ‘the door to this wisdom,’ it is praising the provisional wisdom. It is an expedient means that acts as a corridor to the teaching of the Buddhas’ enlightenment, a force 25that enables one to advance on one’s way. Therefore it is described as a ‘door.’ A door is that by which one enters upon the way. The ‘way’ one enters upon is the true teaching, and the corridor leading to the way is the provisional teachings.
“The sutra praises the provisional wisdom by saying that it is ‘difficult to understand and difficult to enter.’ It is beyond comprehension, yet we comprehend it; it has indescribably great assistance to offer. To those acquainted only with the seven expedient means it is beyond measuring. Only when one reaches the ten stages of security can one for the first time be said to ‘understand’ it. And when one reaches the ten stages of development, one may be said to ‘enter’ it. Here we mention only the earlier stages, the stages of security, and the later stages, the stages of development. During the intervening stages, one comes to realize that this wisdom is truly difficult to expound and difficult to awaken to.
“The sutra, however, makes a special point of saying that none of the voice-hearers or pratyekabuddhas are able to comprehend it. Because such persons are so heavily weighed down by their attachments, it makes a special point of admonishing them.”
On “The Words and Phrases,” volume three, says, “The [passage that includes the] words ‘refer to its vertical and horizontal dimensions’ consists of a doctrine, its simile, and a reference to both true and provisional wisdom. This shows the pattern to be followed. Here the true wisdom has been interpreted as being vast in its horizontal dimensions and all-reaching in its vertical dimensions or depth. In what follows, we are to understand that the provisional wisdom should be interpreted to be extremely profound in principle. The interpretation of the provisional wisdom is to be given in what follows, and so its characteristics are described in advance in this passage. That is why the commentary says what it does.
“In the passage ‘The door to this wisdom,’ the word ‘this’ refers to the wisdom that is the cause of the true wisdom mentioned earlier in the text [as ‘the wisdom of the Buddhas’]. If the wisdom here is likened to a door, then it must be provisional. But if this is 26the door to wisdom, then the wisdom must be the true wisdom that results from the cause. In this passage, therefore, the ten stages of development are to be understood as the corridor that leads to the way, perfect enlightenment as the way itself, and the state following enlightenment as what comes after one has attained the way.
“Therefore one should understand that the purpose underlying this passage is to describe the cause that leads to enlightenment.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The meaning of this passage in Words and Phrases and the commentary on it in On “The Words and Phrases” is perfectly clear. In the passage referring to the vertical and horizontal dimensions, the vertical dimensions represent the essential teaching and the horizontal dimensions represent the theoretical teaching. The “roots” are the roots of a plant or tree. Plants and trees in their growth climb upward. Hence the roots here stand for the theoretical teaching [that leads one upward to enlightenment in the essential teaching]. The “source” represents the essential teaching. The source is the fountainhead from which the river flows. Rivers flow downward. Hence the source here stands for the essential teaching [from which enlightenment flows downward]. The flourishing branches stand for the fourteen chapters of the theoretical teaching in the Lotus Sutra, and the long-lasting flow or the river stands for the fourteen chapters of the essential teaching.
The wisdom referred to is the three kinds of wisdom of a single mind. The “door” is the door that enables one to enter into this wisdom. The essence of the three kinds of wisdom of a single mind is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the door is the mind of faith. So the passage in volume two of the Lotus Sutra (chapter three, Simile and Parable) says, “Even you, Shāriputra, / in the case of this sutra / were able to gain entrance through faith alone.” Here “entrance” is the same in meaning as “door.”
Now when Nichiren and his followers recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are giving expression to this wisdom. The “Simile and Parable” chapter says, “This house has only one gate 27(door).” With regard to gates, there is the gate of being, the gate of emptiness, the gate that is both being and emptiness, and the gate that is neither being nor emptiness. The gate of being is birth. The gate of emptiness is death. The gate that is both being and emptiness is the birth and death of a single mind or life. The gate that is neither being nor emptiness is that which is not birth and not death.
The gate of being is exemplified by the five characters that make up the daimoku. The gate of emptiness is exemplified by the way in which these five characters are endowed with all the phenomena of the universe, without respect to any one particular direction or another. The gate of both being and emptiness is exemplified by the way in which these five characters are endowed with the essential and the theoretical teachings. And the gate that is neither being nor emptiness is exemplified by the underlying meaning of the whole sutra.
This kind of inner enlightenment is not something that can be comprehended by the wisdom of the people of the two vehicles who had yet to hear the Lotus Sutra. Therefore volume three of Words and Phrases says, “To those acquainted only with the seven expedient means it is beyond measuring.”
Now Nichiren and his followers have gained entrance to this wisdom. Therefore when the verse passage [in chapter two of the Lotus Sutra] says, “Among the other kinds of living beings / there are none who can comprehend it, / except the many bodhisattvas / who are firm in the power of faith,” it is referring to persons like us, who are votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
Point Three, regarding the passage “Because the Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, appear in the world for one great reason (ichidaiji innen) alone.”
Words and Phrases, volume four, says, “‘One’ here means the one true aspect. It is not simply ‘one’ as contrasted to five, or to three, or to seven, or to nine. Therefore the text says ‘one’ (ichi). In its nature this ‘one’ is vast and broad, far broader than five, three, 28seven, or nine. Therefore the text defines it as ‘great’ (dai). It is the ceremony in which the Buddhas appear in the world. Therefore the text describes it as an event or affair (ji). Living beings possess the capacity to aspire after the Buddhas. Therefore this is designated as the in, or ‘cause,’ part of the word ‘reason’ (innen, or causes and conditions). The Buddhas, observing this capacity, act in response to it. Therefore this is designated as the en, or ‘condition,’ part of the word ‘reason.’ This is the true reason for which the Buddhas appear in the world.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “One” represents the Middle Way teachings of the Lotus Sutra. “Great” represents the teachings on non-substantiality of the Flower Garland Sutra. And the “affair” represents the teachings on temporary existence of the Āgama, Correct and Equal, and Wisdom sutras, the three lesser flavors of milk, cream, and curdled milk. The sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra set forth this doctrine of the three truths, but in a form like that of a shattered jewel, not that of a perfect treasure.
Again we may say that “one” stands for myō, “great” stands for hō, “affair” stands for ren, “cause” stands for ge, and “condition” stands for kyō. Or again we may say that our head corresponds to myō, our throat to hō, our chest to ren, our stomach to ge, and our legs to kyō. Hence this five-foot body of ours constitutes the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.
For a period of more than forty years the Thus Come One Shakyamuni concealed and kept secret this great affair. Only when he came to preach the Lotus Sutra did he reveal it. It was for the purpose of preaching this great affair that the Buddha made his appearance in the world. When he revealed that our own bodies are the embodiments of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, he was [as chapter two of the Lotus Sutra says] “opening the door of Buddha wisdom,” revealing that we can attain Buddhahood in our present bodies or existences.
“Opening” here is another name for the mind of faith. When we recite Myoho-renge-kyo with the mind of faith, we are in that 29very act opening the door of Buddha wisdom. And at the same time, when we open up the mind of faith and [chant and] manifest Nam-myoho-renge-kyo within our lives, we are “showing the Buddha wisdom to living beings” (chapter two). And when we show them this, we are awakening them to the fact that this place where we dwell now is the Pure Land of Eagle Peak. We are awakening them to the fact that we can attain Buddhahood in our present bodies, which is what is called “causing living beings to awaken to the Buddha wisdom” (ibid.). And when these beings who have awakened can “mount this jeweled vehicle / and proceed directly to the place of practice” (chapter three, Simile and Parable), this is “inducing living beings to enter the path of Buddha wisdom” (chapter two). This is what it truly means to use the mind of faith to open the door of Buddha wisdom.
With regard to the word “enter” in the phrase “inducing living beings to enter the path of Buddha wisdom,” if viewed in terms of the theoretical teaching, it refers to entering into or embracing the theoretical principle of the true aspect of all phenomena. If viewed in terms of the essential teaching, it means entering into an awakening that a person at the stage of being a Buddha in theory is actually a Buddha of original enlightenment. Now persons like Nichiren and his followers, who have learned to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, may be said to have entered the treasure tower.
With regard to the word “Buddha” in the phrase “opening the door of Buddha wisdom,” this refers to the Buddha world that is inherent in the nine worlds. With regard to the word “wisdom,” it refers to the two characters myōhō, or “Wonderful Law,” to the two characters shikan, or “concentration and insight,” to the two virtues of tranquility and brightness that pertain to enlightenment, to the two phases of birth and death, to the cause and effect of body and mind.
In the end, “wisdom” means the Wonderful Law. It means to use the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra to open up the Buddha mind that is inherent in the nine worlds. If we think of this, we realize that Buddha in fact is the living beings of the nine worlds.
30When the Buddha opens up and reveals this Buddha wisdom, and asks them if they will uphold it in their present bodies till they manifest Buddha bodies, this is showing the Wonderful Law, or what the sutra calls “showing the Buddha wisdom to living beings.” And when teacher and disciples have fully responded to one another and the disciples have received the teaching, so that they gain the awakening referred to where the sutra says, “I took a vow, / hoping to make all persons / equal to me, without any distinction between us” (chapter two), this is what the sutra calls “causing living beings to awaken to the Buddha wisdom.”
When the disciples reach such an awakening, they see that all the various and individual entities in the three thousand worlds of the Dharma-realm are the Lotus Sutra. Entering into this kind of inner enlightenment is what is called “entering the path of Buddha wisdom.” This is a matter that must be treated with secrecy.
Again we may say that the four processes related to the Buddha wisdom, the “opening,” “showing,” “awakening,” and “entering,” correspond to the eight phases of the Buddha’s existence. “Opening” corresponds to the birth phase of the Buddha’s existence, and “entering” corresponds to the death phase. And the two processes in between, “showing” and “awakening,” correspond to the other six phases. Thus the two phases that precede birth, namely, descending from heaven and entering his mother’s womb, correspond to the “showing” of the Buddha wisdom, and the phases of renouncing the world, conquering the devils, attaining enlightenment, and turning the wheel of the Law, correspond to the “awakening” of the Buddha wisdom.
The doctrines embodied in the provisional teachings were designed to remove one from the realm of birth and death. Therefore they cannot be termed the “opening,” “showing,” “awakening,” and “entering” of the Buddha wisdom. But when we come to the present sutra, the Lotus, we awaken to the realization that the two phases of life and death are the wonderful workings of one mind, and that the two ways of existence and nonexistence are the true functions of an inherently enlightened mind. This is 31what is meant by the “opening,” “showing,” “awakening,” and “entering” of the Buddha wisdom. Intending to carry out these four activities with regard to the Buddha wisdom, the Buddhas of the three existences “for this one great reason” made their appearance in the world.
And yet, speaking of this Lotus Sutra that can “open the door of Buddha wisdom,” Hōnen tells us to “discard, close, ignore, and abandon” it; and the Great Teacher Kōbō assigns it to the third level and disparages it by calling it a doctrine of “frivolous theory.” Persons such as this may be said to cut off the tongues of the five categories of Buddhas who preach in a uniform manner, may they not? And the Great Teachers Jikaku and Chishō and their kind are like men who place a sword in the hands of a wicked son so that he may cut off the head of his own parent, are they not?
Again, in the phrase ichidaiji, or “one great affair,” the ichi, or “one,” stands for the truth of the Middle Way in the doctrine of the three truths, the dai, or “great,” stands for the truth of non-substantiality, and the ji, or “affair,” stands for the truth of temporary existence.
And what are the three truths that join to form a perfect unity? They are that which is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. These five characters constitute the fundamental purpose for which Nichiren appeared in this world, and therefore they are referred to as a ji, or “affair.”
Among all people in the country of Japan, those who become disciples and supporters of Nichiren are the ones of whom it may be said, “Living beings possess the capacity to aspire after the Buddhas. Therefore this is designated as the in, or ‘cause,’ part of the word ‘reason’ (innen, or causes and conditions).” And when for their sake I propagate the ultimate principle of the Lotus Sutra, this is what is meant by “The Buddhas, observing this capacity, act in response to it. Therefore this is designated as the en, or ‘condition,’ part of the word ‘reason,’” is it not?
The in, or “causes,” is the planting of the original seed of Buddhahood, and the en, or “conditions,” goes back to the en that was 32established in one’s previous existence major world system dust particle kalpas ago or numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago. The ji, or “affair,” which is the actuality of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, refers to Nichiren himself, and is indeed a great affair.
“One” is one single moment of life, and “great” is the three thousand realms. The preaching of the three thousand realms came about through the “affair” of causes and conditions. The “affair” refers to the realm of living beings, the “causes” refers to the realm of the five components, and the “conditions” refers to the realm of the environment. With regard to the “conditions,” or the realm of the environment, we may say that basic conditions dictate that Jambudvīpa is the land where Myoho-renge-kyo, or the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, should be propagated. Therefore, the sutra says, “I will cause it to be widely propagated throughout Jambudvīpa and will see that it never comes to an end” (chapter twenty-eight, Universal Worthy).
Point Four, regarding the “five impurities” in the passage “Shāriputra, the Buddhas appear in evil worlds of five impurities. These are the so-called impurity of the age, impurity of desire, impurity of living beings, impurity of view, and impurity of life span.”
Words and Phrases, volume four, says, “The impurity of the kalpa or age has no separate form [but is the impurities associated with that particular age]. Kalpa refers to a long period of time, while kshana refers to a short period of time. . . . The impurity of living beings has no separate form [but is the impurities associated with those particular living beings]. It is the results of illusions of thought and arrogance [and other illusions of desire] as they are manifested among living beings. . . . The impurity of desire takes form as one is driven by the five delusive inclinations. The impurity of view takes form as one is driven by the five false views. The impurity of life span takes form through the continued existence of one’s body and mind.”
33The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: Nichiren and his followers have removed themselves from these five impurities. Since, as the sutra says, “This, my land, remains safe and tranquil” (chapter sixteen, Life Span), we are not affected by the impurity of the age. Since we manifest the unconditioned Buddha body of the true aspect, we are not affected by the impurity of living beings. Since we understand the wonderful truth that earthly desires are enlightenment and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana, we are not affected by the impurity of desire. Since we possess the Buddha body that has existed without beginning from numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago, we are not affected by the impurity of life span. And since we are votaries of the Lotus Sutra who “honestly discarding expedient means, / will preach only the unsurpassed way” (chapter two), we are not affected by the impurity of view.
In effect, it is faith in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that determines whether these five impurities will arise. Therefore the passage on the five impurities applies to all the living beings of Japan [who do not have such faith]. Hence volume four of Words and Phrases says, “The mark of the impurity of the age is the fact that the other four types of impurity appear in increased number and intensity and flock about the age. Because anger increases in intensity, strife of arms occurs. Because greed increases in intensity, famine arises. Because foolishness increases in intensity, pestilence breaks out. And because these three calamities occur, earthly desires grow more powerful and false views increasingly flourish.”
This is what the sutra means when it says, “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?” (chapter ten, The Teacher of the Law).
Persons who do not have faith in the Lotus Sutra are gravely impeded by the five impurities. Hence the sutra says, “In this evil world of the five impurities / those who merely delight in and are attached to the desires, / living beings such as this / in the end will never seek the Buddha way” (chapter two). Here “the 34Buddha way” is simply another name for the Lotus Sutra. As T’ien-t’ai says, “The term ‘Buddha way’ refers to this sutra [the Lotus] in particular.”
Point Five, regarding the passage “There are monks and nuns / who behave with overbearing arrogance, / laymen full of self-esteem, / laywomen who are lacking in faith. / Among the four kinds of believers, the likes of these / number five thousand. / They fail to see their own errors, / are heedless and remiss with regard to the precepts, / clinging to their shortcomings, unwilling to change. / But these persons of small wisdom have already left; / the chaff among this assembly / has departed in the face of the Buddha’s authority. / These persons were of paltry merit and virtue, / incapable of receiving this Law. / This assembly is now free of branches and leaves, / made up only of those steadfast and truthful.”
Words and Phrases, volume four, says, “Overbearing arrogance, self-esteem, and lack of faith are faults common to all four kinds of believers. But the two types of believers who have left the household life, the monks and nuns, because they have devoted much practice to the way and have gained proficiency in meditation, often mistakenly believe that they have attained the goal of enlightenment, and are therefore particularly given to overbearing arrogance. The two types of believers who remain in ordinary life, the laymen and laywomen, are often puffed up with pride and frequently display self-esteem. Women, being shallow in wisdom, often fall into mistaken views. The words ‘They fail to see their own errors’ refer to all three errors of the mind, overbearing arrogance, self-esteem, and lack of faith. Because these people conceal their failings, flaunt their virtues, and are incapable of self-reflection, they show themselves to be persons of no shame. If they could see their own errors, they would be monks with a sense of shame.”
On “The Words and Phrases,” volume four, says, “The words 35‘Because these people conceal their failings’ refer to the three errors of overbearing arrogance, self-esteem, and lack of faith. ‘Because these people conceal their failings, flaunt their virtues’ refers to overbearing arrogance. ‘Incapable of self-reflection’ refers to self-esteem. ‘Persons of no shame’ refers to a lack of faith. But if a person is capable of ‘seeing his own errors,’ then he is without these three errors. Although he has not yet reached the goal of enlightenment, he can still be called a person with a sense of shame.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The purpose of these passages in the commentary Words and Phrases and the subcommentary On “The Words and Phrases” is to explain the arrogance of the five thousand monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen in the assembly who rose from their seats, bowed to the Buddha, and withdrew (chapter two). You should examine them carefully. The two categories of monks and nuns are persons who have left the household life, and both are said to display overbearing arrogance. To conceal their failings and flaunt their virtues is their basic characteristic. The upāsaka, or laymen, are men, and their basic characteristic is self-esteem. The upāsikā, or laywomen, are women, and their basic characteristic is shamelessness.
These four kinds of believers are very plentiful in Japan today. The sutra says that they “number five thousand.” But in fact in Japan there are 4,994,828 such persons to be seen. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, five thousand persons rose from their seats and withdrew from the assembly where he was preaching. But now, in the Latter Day of the Law, all the living beings in this land of Japan rise from their seats and withdraw from the place where Nichiren is preaching.
The monks and nuns who display overbearing arrogance—they are priests like Dōryū and Ryōkan, are they not? Or like the nuns of Kamakura. The laymen are persons like [the lay priest of] Saimyō-ji [Hōjō Tokiyori], and the laywomen are all the women, whether high or low in station [who are lacking in faith], are they not? None of these deign to see their own errors.
36Now these people slander Nichiren and his followers, trying to give them an evil name. Are they not those who “fail to see their own errors”? They are guilty of great slander against the Law. Without doubt they are persons who withdraw from the assembly where the Lotus Sutra is preached.
But when they have encountered Nichiren, they may be said, in the words of the sutra, to have “bowed to the Buddha and withdrawn” (ibid.). This “bowing to the Buddha and withdrawing” is a mark of their contempt for him. It is not in any sense the bowing and departing of those who have understanding and belief. This is why the sutra, speaking of such persons, says, “They are heedless and remiss with regard to the precepts.” Volume four of Words and Phrases says, “In the phrase ‘heedless and remiss with regard to the precepts,’ the word ‘heedless’ refers to errors in the precepts pertaining to the code of conduct, and the word ‘remiss’ refers to errors in the precepts that accompany meditation and the precepts that accompany the way [or emancipation from earthly desires].”
These five thousand arrogant persons are the five types of abiding earthly desires2 that are always part of our makeup. But now when we encounter the Lotus Sutra, we awake to the fact that arrogance itself is part of the Dharma-realm, so that “bowing to the Buddha and withdrawing” means that it has “departed in the face of the Buddha’s authority.” The “Buddha” here is the Buddha realm that is part of our nature, and his “authority” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore when we speak of withdrawing or departing, it refers to a “departure that is not a departure.” You should think of it as the kind of departure described in the passage at the end of the “Universal Worthy” chapter that reads, “They bowed in obeisance and departed.”
On the other hand, we may also say that the withdrawal of the five thousand persons from the assembly signifies that in fact 37there is no withdrawing from the assembly where the Lotus Sutra is preached. The reason is that one has already gained enlightenment through the briefly expressed replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle that took place with “the true aspect of all phenomena” passage (chapter two). At that time it was made clear that, as far as self-esteem and overbearing arrogance are concerned, such arrogance itself is a part of the Dharma-realm, the impulse to arrogance that is intrinsic to our nature. The phrase “the likes of these number five thousand” refers to the five types of abiding earthly desires that are at all times a part of our makeup. If we were without these five types of abiding earthly desires, then the whole meaning of the Lotus Sutra would be lost.
When we realize that these five types of abiding earthly desires are an intrinsic and constantly present part of our nature, then we may speak of them as numbering five thousand. And when we do not endeavor to cut off such delusions but look on these five abiding elements, just as they are, as constituting an inherent part of the myōhō, or Wonderful Law, then it may be said that we “fail to see our own errors.”
As to the phrase “heedless and remiss with regard to the precepts,” this does not refer to the kind of precepts and rules put forth in the Hinayana and provisional teachings, which are designed to cure various sicknesses in human nature. Rather it refers to the Wonderful Law embodied in the passage [that describes a person who can accept and uphold the Lotus Sutra], saying of such a person that “this is what is called observing the precepts” (chapter eleven, Treasure Tower). Therefore the act of being heedless and remiss is in essence, just as it is, the entity referred to in the words “This is what is called observing the precepts.”
Therefore, since we recognize this heedlessness and remissness as, just as it is, a part of our basic nature, we may be said, in the words of the sutra, to “cling to our shortcomings, unwilling to change.” From the beginning, these are the wonderful precepts of the one vehicle, a vehicle in which the entire Dharma-realm is contained in one particle of dust and the ten directions are all present in a single moment of life, and therefore we may say with the 38sutra that “these persons of small wisdom have already left.”
The “chaff” that the sutra speaks of, each and every speck of dust, each and every phenomenon, is the three bodies of original enlightenment. Therefore, although, as the sutra says, such persons may be “of paltry merit and virtue,” they are the enlightened body of original and unconditioned enlightenment. Regarding the passage of the sutra that says that these persons are “incapable of receiving this Law”: Having heard the substance of the doctrine as it was expounded in the brief replacement of the three vehicles by the one, the passage on “the true aspect of all phenomena,” they attain enlightenment just as they are. The venerable Shāriputra then asks the Buddha to preach and expound the doctrine with distinctions for the benefit of persons of dull capacity. This refers to the fact that, when the extended exposition of the replacement of the three vehicles by the one was delivered, these persons were “incapable of receiving this Law” [because they already understood it].
But to return to the true meaning of the Lotus Sutra, the substance of the Wonderful Law knows no distinction between the persons who are capable of receiving the Law and the Law that is capable of being received. It is truly a Wonderful Law that is beyond imagination. And when one proceeds to awaken to its importance, the sutra can declare that “this assembly is now free of branches and leaves.”
This kind of inner awakening, an awakening to the true aspect in its purity, is the realization that outside of this true aspect no other phenomenon whatsoever exists. Therefore the sutra can say that it is made up “only of those steadfast and truthful.” In essence, steadfast and truthful refer to the realization that the body and mind are the Wonderful Law.
When Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we may say that the company is made up “only of those steadfast and truthful.” “Those” refers to the Buddha of the true aspect of all phenomena. “Those” also refers to the Ten Worlds, and “steadfast and truthful” refers to the realization that the 39bodies and minds of beings in the Ten Worlds are the Wonderful Law. And the word “only” is applied because such realization is limited to this sutra [the Lotus].
The five thousand arrogant persons are in fact nothing other than the Lotus Sutra. The five thousand arrogant persons are the five elements of which we are made. The five elements themselves are Myoho-renge-kyo.
Again, the five thousand arrogant persons represent fundamental darkness. Hence it is said of them that they “bowed to the Buddha and withdrew.” This is speaking of persons who withdraw from the ninth consciousness to the eighth consciousness, and on down to the six consciousnesses, that is, those who transmigrate in the realm of birth and death. And when the sutra says that such persons have “departed in the face of the Buddha’s authority,” it is speaking of the teachings that lead to the extinguishing of the sufferings of birth and death and the return to nirvana. Hence the “authority” spoken of here is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the total entity of original delusion and original enlightenment. You should give very careful thought to this matter.
Point Six, regarding the passage “Shāriputra, you should know / that at the start I took a vow, / hoping to make all persons / equal to me, without any distinction between us, / and what I long ago hoped for / has now been fulfilled. / I have converted all living beings / and caused them all to enter the Buddha way.”
The commentary [volume four of Words and Phrases] says, “This points out the cause [for the attainment of Buddhahood] in order to encourage faith.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The “I” here refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, who in fact attained Buddhahood in the remote past. This Shakyamuni Buddha of the essential teaching is none other than we, living beings.
40The “me” in the phrase “equal to me” [that is, the Buddha] represents the last seven of the ten factors of life. The living beings of the nine worlds represent the first three of the ten factors. We living beings are the parent, and the Buddha is the child. Father and son constitute a single entity, a beginning and end that are ultimately equal. We living beings are described in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra as the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies.
Nichiren and his followers, who today chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the ones meant here. And if we stop to think of it, we realize that the two vows taken by Shakyamuni, the universal or general vow and the individual or particular vow, were taken for the sake of living beings such as us. Therefore when Nichiren chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, vowing to make it possible for all the living beings in this country of Japan to attain Buddhahood, this is what is described in the sutra in the words “at the start I took a vow, / hoping to make all persons / equal to me.” And when in the end he has guided and led all beings so that they become one with the Buddha himself, you should understand that this is what is referred to by the words “what I long ago hoped for / has now been fulfilled.”
In the phrase “has now been fulfilled” (kon ja i manzoku), the character i means “already.” What is the passage referring to when it says that “now it has already been fulfilled”? On the whole, the commentaries of T’ien-t’ai indicate that the “already” refers to the pronouncement on the “true aspect of all phenomena” made earlier by the Buddha. But from the point of view of the teachings of our school, you should understand that it refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and that this is what is being described in the words “now it has already been fulfilled.”
For this reason the passage “hoping to make all persons / equal to me, without any distinction between us” is one of great importance. “What I long ago hoped for” is the True Cause. And “to make all persons / equal to me, without any distinction between us” is the True Effect. The Shakyamuni Buddha of perfect 41enlightenment is our own flesh and blood. His practices and the resulting virtues are our bones and marrow, are they not?
The commentary of T’ien-t’ai says, “This points out the cause [for the attainment of Buddhahood] in order to encourage faith.” “Pointing out the cause” is none other than the True Effect.3 And now when Nichiren chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he is enabling all living beings to attain Buddhahood in the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law. Is it not right, therefore, to say, “What I long ago hoped for / has now been fulfilled”?
“Already” refers to the daimoku, which was chanted for the first time on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month of the fifth year of the Kenchō era (1253), and hence we may think of it as something that has taken place “already.” There can be no question that through this act the truly excellent medicine of the Wonderful Law is being applied in order to cure the grave illness of darkness that afflicts all living beings. In the light of this act, Nichiren has “fulfilled” his vow. “Fulfilled” may also be taken to refer to the achieving of Buddhahood on the part of the living beings.
The passage in a commentary [volume one of On “Great Concentration and Insight”] says, “Perfect means perfect and interfused or perfect and full. Sudden means sudden and complete or sudden and satisfactory.”4 You should think about this.
Point Seven, regarding the passage “Now I, joyful and fearless, / in the midst of the bodhisattvas, / honestly discarding expedient means, / will preach only the unsurpassed way.”
Words and Phrases, volume four, says, “The three lines of verse beginning with the line ‘in the midst of the bodhisattvas’ refer to 42the moment when the true teaching is revealed. The five vehicles [or the teachings for achieving the realms of human beings, heavenly beings, voice-hearers, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas] are distorted teachings, not straightforward. The connecting teaching and the specific teaching are one-sided and secondary, not the correct and primary teaching. But now the Buddha discards all these biased and distorted teachings and honestly preaches only the one way.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The bodhisattvas referred to here are the bodhisattvas that dwell in the ninth of the nine worlds. Again, bodhisattvas also refers to all living beings. Now it means Nichiren and his followers. Again, the heavenly gods and benevolent deities are also bodhisattvas.
“Honestly” refers to the principle that earthly desires are enlightenment and the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. The “one way” that the commentary speaks of is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, it is Nichiren and his followers, is it not, who honestly work to propagate the one way?
Point Eight, regarding the passage “When evil persons in ages to come / hear the Buddha preach the single vehicle, / they will be confused, will not believe or accept it, / will reject the Law and fall into the evil paths.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “In ages to come” refers to the Latter Day of the Law. “Evil persons” refers to Hōnen, Kōbō, Jikaku, Chishō, and their like. “The Buddha” refers to Nichiren and his followers. “The single vehicle” refers to Myoho-renge-kyo. Because these persons fail to have faith in this, they are bound to fall into the three evil paths.