Point One, concerning the “Belief and Understanding” chapter
On “Words and Phrases,” volume six, says, “In the Lotus Sutra of the Correct Law, this chapter is entitled ‘Belief and Wish’ chapter. Though the meaning is similar, the word ‘wish’ is less appropriate than ‘understanding.’ The chapter describes [how the four disciples, Subhūti, Kātyāyana, Mahākāshyapa, and Maudgalyāyana, gained] an understanding of the teachings, but what justification is there for the use of the word ‘wish’?”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The twenty-eight chapters that make up the Lotus Sutra bear various titles; “Belief and Understanding” is the title given to this chapter. The truth of three thousand realms in a single moment of life too has its origins in this single word “belief” or “faith,” and it is through this single word “belief” that the Buddhas of the three existences of past, present, and future attained their enlightenment.
This word “belief” is a sharp sword that cuts off fundamental darkness or ignorance. Therefore with regard to belief, Words and Phrases says, “Belief means to be without doubt.” It is a sharp sword that cuts away doubt and perplexity.
“Understanding” is another name for wisdom. Belief represents the value or price we attach to a jewel or treasure, and understanding represents the jewel itself. It is through the one word “belief” that we are able to purchase the wisdom of the Buddhas of the three existences. That wisdom is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Belief is the source of wisdom and belongs to the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth. Outside of belief there can be no understanding, and outside of understanding there can be 55no belief. It is through this one word “belief” that the seeds of perfect enlightenment are sown.
Now when Nichiren and his followers believe in and accept Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are gaining possession of a great precious jewel; in the words of the “Belief and Understanding” chapter, “This cluster of unsurpassed jewels / has come to us unsought.” Belief is the seed of wisdom, but failure to believe will lead one to fall into hell.
Again we may say that belief corresponds to the principle of eternal and unchanging truth. Therefore belief means to experience “the knowledge that all dharmas or phenomena are every one of them the Buddha Dharma or Law” (volume one of Great Concentration and Insight), and to believe in the single truth or principle of the true aspect of all phenomena. Understanding corresponds to [the wisdom] that functions in accordance with changing circumstances, that is to say, “the [immeasurable] wisdom that is freely gained and employed.”
Volume nine of Words and Phrases says, “Belief means to be without doubt; understanding means to have a clear perception of the matter.” Volume six of Words and Phrases says, “The disciples of intermediate capacity [such as Subhūti and the others], when they heard the Buddha preach the ‘Simile and Parable’ chapter, for the first time rid themselves of doubt and perplexity and entered upon the path of insight expounded in the Great Vehicle. Therefore this step of the process is termed ‘belief.’ They then proceeded to the path of practice as expounded in the Great Vehicle. Therefore this is termed ‘understanding.’”
Volume six of On “The Words and Phrases,” commenting on this, says, “Looking at the matter from the viewpoint of the Great Vehicle, we may say that the two words ‘belief’ and ‘understanding’ refer to the two paths [of insight and practice]. First one rids oneself of doubt, and therefore this is called belief. Then one proceeds to embark on [the path of practice], and this is called understanding. The term ‘belief’ applies to both paths, but the term ‘understanding’ applies only to the path of practice. Therefore the path of practice is termed ‘understanding.’”
56Point Two, regarding the passage “Suppose there was a man, still young in years, who abandoned his father, ran away, and lived for a long time in another land.”
Words and Phrases, volume six, says, “In the passage ‘abandoned his father, ran away,’ ‘abandon’ means to withdraw from the Great Vehicle; ‘run’ means to shroud oneself in darkness, or ignorance; and ‘away’ means to turn toward the realm of birth and death.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “father” can be taken in three ways. It may stand for the Lotus Sutra, for Shakyamuni Buddha, or for Nichiren. The Lotus Sutra is the father of all living beings. By turning one’s back on the Lotus Sutra, one becomes an ordinary mortal who is subject to the round of transmigration. Shakyamuni Buddha is the father of all living beings. By turning one’s back on this Buddha, one keeps revolving on and on through the various paths of existence.
Now Nichiren is the father of all living beings in the country of Japan. The Great Teacher Chang-an [in his commentary on the Nirvana Sutra] says, “One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.”
In the words “to withdraw from the Great Vehicle” in the passage from Words and Phrases above, “the Great Vehicle” refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. “Darkness” refers to doubt, perplexity, and slander of the Law. “To shroud oneself” in such darkness is to be like the evil monks Hōnen, Kōbō, Jikaku, Chishō, Dōryū, Ryōkan, and the others who deliberately shroud or conceal the fact that they are guilty of slandering the Law.
Point Three, regarding the passage “As he grew older, he found himself increasingly poor and in want.”
Words and Phrases, volume six, says, “When one cannot find the all-important means to escape [from the realm of birth and death], one is in poverty. And because one is consumed in the fires of the eight sufferings, one is in want.”
57The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The all-important means to escape [from the realm of birth and death] is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And the means that leads one to escape is the mind of faith. Now the reason that Nichiren and his followers are able to avoid and be free from poverty and want is that they accept and uphold the Lotus Sutra.
Again we may say that, when one encounters the Wonderful Law, one awakens to the fact that the fires of the eight sufferings that attend earthly desires are the wisdom fire of the Buddha of limitless joy.
Point Four, on the words “his heart filled with regret and longing” in the passage “The father thought constantly of his son, but though he had been parted from him for over fifty years, he had never told anyone else about the matter. He merely pondered to himself, his heart filled with regret and longing.”
Words and Phrases, volume six, says, “Regret refers to the father. Longing (kon, which may also mean blame) refers to the son.”
On “The Words and Phrases,” volume six, says, “The father felt regret for [his failure to instruct his son properly] and also reproached his son [for abandoning him].”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: All the various living beings in the country of Japan are comparable to the son, and Nichiren is comparable to the father. Because they fail to have faith in the Lotus Sutra, the living beings fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering, but instead of blaming themselves, on the contrary they look upon Nichiren with reproach. For his part, Nichiren has never spared his voice in urging them not to cast aside the Lotus Sutra, and so on Eagle Peak he must have his feelings of regret [for their dwelling in hell].
Volume six of Words and Phrases says, “The words ‘his heart filled with regret and longing’ mean that the father regrets that in the past he failed to teach and admonish his son with sufficient 58diligence or to instruct him properly, so that as a result the son ran away. And he reproaches his son for forgetting the obligations he owes his parents and spurning his father and becoming intimate with others.”
Point Five, on the words “This cluster of unsurpassed jewels / has come to us unsought” in the passage “We today have heard / the Buddha’s voice teaching / and we dance for joy, / having gained what we never had before. / The Buddha declares that the voice-hearers / will be able to attain Buddhahood. / This cluster of unsurpassed jewels / has come to us unsought.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “unsurpassed” has various different levels of meaning. From the point of view of the non-Buddhist doctrines, the Tripitaka teaching of Buddhism is unsurpassed, whereas the non-Buddhist doctrines have that which surpasses them. Again, the Tripitaka teaching has that which surpasses it, while the connecting teaching is in comparison unsurpassed. The connecting teaching in turn has that which surpasses it, while the specific teaching is unsurpassed. The specific teaching has that which surpasses it, while the perfect teaching is unsurpassed.
Again, the perfect teaching of the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra has that which surpasses it, while the perfect teaching of the Lotus Sutra is unsurpassed. Again, the perfect teaching of the theoretical teaching section of the Lotus Sutra has that which surpasses it, while the perfect teaching of the essential teaching section is unsurpassed. Again, the other thirteen chapters of the theoretical teaching have that which surpasses them, while the “Expedient Means” chapter is unsurpassed. Again, the other thirteen chapters of the essential teaching have that which surpasses them, while the “one chapter and two halves” are unsurpassed.
Again, among the teachings put forth by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, Great Concentration and Insight is unsurpassed, while The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra and Words and Phrases 59have that which surpasses them. And now in the minds of Nichiren and his followers, what is unsurpassed is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Among all the things that are unsurpassed, it holds the highest position of all.
It is the Wonderful Law that is described in the passage above as a “cluster of unsurpassed jewels,” a cluster of jewels that represents all the pāramitās, the ten thousand religious practices and ten thousand good deeds of all the Buddhas of the three existences of past, present, and future.
And without labor or trouble, without religious practices or good deeds, this cluster of unsurpassed jewels can come into our possession through the single word “faith.” That is why the passage says that it has “come to us (jitoku) unsought.” The word ji in the phrase jitoku (come to us of itself) refers to the Ten Worlds, that is, the cluster comes into the possession of each and every one in the Ten Worlds. This is what is known as the true aspect of all phenomena.
Therefore this passage is saying that the Shakyamuni Buddha of perfect enlightenment is none other than the flesh and blood of us living beings. You should ponder this very carefully.
Point Six, on the great mercy of the World-Honored One in the passage “The World-Honored One in his great mercy / makes use of a rare thing, / in pity and compassion teaching and converting, / bringing benefit to us. / In numberless millions of kalpas / who could ever repay him?”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The World-Honored One is Shakyamuni Buddha. The great mercy is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. If we wish to repay the great mercy of Shakyamuni Buddha, we should accept and uphold the Lotus Sutra. This is the way to acknowledge the mercy of Shakyamuni Buddha.
The reason the great mercy is taken to mean the daimoku is explained in the words that follow, namely, “makes use of a rare thing.” The rare thing is the daimoku. For more than forty years 60this great mercy, the Lotus Sutra, was kept secret, and then in the eight years that followed, the great mercy was set forth and revealed.
Volume one of Words and Phrases says, “The Dharma King reveals the way [the people should follow].” The way is the great mercy of the Lotus Sutra. Now, when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, thinking in that way to save all the living beings of this country of Japan, is this not an example of the great mercy of the World-Honored One?
The Great Teacher Chang-an distinguishes ten different types of mercy [bestowed by the Buddha]. First is the mercy represented by a compassion that embraces all living things. Second is the mercy of the very first sowing of the seed of Buddhahood. Third is the mercy of the various appearances of the Buddha in the interval that followed. Fourth is the mercy of concealing his virtue and appearing as though inferior. Fifth is the mercy of the preaching of the Lesser Vehicle in Deer Park. Sixth is the mercy of leading the disciples to spurn the Lesser Vehicle and long for the Great Vehicle. Seventh is the mercy of the rich father causing his son to manage his household affairs. Eighth is the mercy of the father awakening his son to his true relationship to the father. Ninth is the mercy of giving a wonderful feeling of peace and security. Tenth is the mercy of being able to utilize what one has gained to benefit others. These ten types of mercy correspond to the three analogies of the robe, the seat, and the room of the Thus Come One, that is, the three rules of preaching. (See Point Seven of chapter ten, The Teacher of the Law.)
Volume six of On “The Words and Phrases” says, “The seeds planted long ago are beginning to sprout a little, but they have not yet unfolded and attained the stage of flowering. So what means would they have to repay the mercy shown to them so long ago?”
It also says, “The commentator says that things do not reply to heaven and earth for the fact of their existence, as a child does not give thanks to his father and mother for the fact of his birth. 61It is because they lack a sense of obligation to repay the debt they owe.”
Commenting on this, The Supplement to “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra,” volume six, says, “‘Things do not reply to heaven and earth for the fact of their existence’ means that, although things come into being through the agency of heaven and earth, they do not attempt to repay the kindness of heaven and earth. The same applies in the case of the child.”
On “The Words and Phrases,” volume six, says, “How could it be simply because they lack a sense of obligation to repay? Rather it is that this mercy is such that it cannot be repaid.”
Commenting on this, Supplement to “The Words and Phrases” says, “‘How could it be simply because they lack a sense of obligation to repay?’ means that the Thus Come One has given the voice-hearer disciples something that in principle is incapable of being repaid. What he has given them in principle is the One Great Nirvana.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: Thus, although the commentators offer various different interpretations, in the end the great mercy refers to the sowing of the seeds of Buddhahood through Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Because of this mercy of sowing the seeds, all other kinds of mercy follow just as shadows follow a form. And now Nichiren too dispenses this kind of mercy. In presenting this Lotus Sutra to all the living beings of the country of Japan, he is bestowing upon them the ten kinds of mercy of Shakyamuni Buddha, is he not?
As we have seen, these ten types of mercy correspond to the three analogies of the robe, the seat, and the room of the Thus Come One. The first, second, and third types correspond to the mercy of the room that is great pity. The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh types correspond to the mercy of the robe that is gentle and forbearing. And the eighth, ninth, and tenth types correspond to the seat that is the emptiness of all phenomena.
With regard to the sixth type, the mercy of leading the disciples to spurn the Lesser Vehicle and long for the Great Vehicle, volume 62six of On “The Words and Phrases” says, “Therefore, after preaching the sudden teaching, the Buddha sets forth the doctrines of the Lesser Vehicle, then purging and washing clean his disciples, he refines and pounds them into shape as though with hammers and mallets.”