THE fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “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?”1 The fifth volume says, “It will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe.”2 The thirty-eighth volume of the Nirvana Sutra states, “At that time there were countless non-Buddhists. . . . Their hearts gave rise to fury.” It also says, “At that time there were innumerable non-Buddhists who plotted together and went as a group to Ajātashatru, the king of Magadha, and said: ‘At present there is a man of incomparable wickedness, a monk called Gautama. O King, you have never examined him, and this arouses much fear in us. All sorts of evil people, hoping to gain profit and alms, have flocked to him and become his followers. [These people do not practice goodness, but instead use the power of spells and magic to win over men like] Mahākāshyapa, Shāriputra, and Maudgalyāyana.’” This well illustrates the meaning of the passage: “Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world . . .”
The Preceptor Tokuitsu reviled the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che, saying, “See here, Chih-i, whose disciple are you? With a tongue less than three inches long you slander the teachings that come from the Buddha’s long broad tongue that can cover even his face!”3 Tokuitsu also said, “Surely T’ien-t’ai must be perverse and insane.” More than three hundred priests, including the prelates of the seven major temples in Nara such as the Supervisor of Priests Gomyō and the Discipline Master Keishin,4 hurled abuse at the Great Teacher Dengyō, saying: “Just as in a land west of China there was a Brahman named Demon Eloquence, so now in this eastern realm of Japan there is a shavepated monk who spits out crafty words. Evil spirits invisibly invite such people to deceive and mislead the world.”5
However, Dengyō states in his Outstanding Principles of the Lotus Sutra: “Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound is the way of a person of courage. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai trusted and obeyed Shakyamuni and worked to uphold the Lotus school, spreading its teachings throughout China. We of Mount Hiei inherited the doctrine from T’ien-t’ai and work to uphold the Lotus school and to disseminate its teachings throughout Japan.”
During the lifetime of the Buddha as well as the two thousand years of the 448Former and Middle Days of the Law that followed after his passing, there were only three votaries of the Lotus Sutra. They were the Buddha himself, T’ien-t’ai, and Dengyō. By contrast, Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k’ung of the True Word school, Tu-shun and Chih-yen of the Flower Garland school, and the teachers of the Three Treatises and Dharma Characteristics schools all interpreted the sentences of the sutra of the true teaching so that they accorded with the meaning of the provisional sutras. Scholars such as Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu inwardly grasped the meaning of the Lotus Sutra but did not outwardly speak of it. Not even the four ranks of sages6 in the Former Day of the Law could compare with T’ien-t’ai and Dengyō when it came to propagating the Lotus Sutra just as it teaches.
If the Buddha’s prediction is true, there must be a votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, and the great difficulties that he encounters will surpass those that occurred during the Buddha’s lifetime. The Buddha himself underwent nine great ordeals. He was slandered by Sundarī; he was offered stinking rice gruel; he was forced to eat horse fodder; King Virūdhaka massacred the greater part of the Shākya clan; he went begging but his bowl remained empty; the Brahman’s daughter Chinchā slandered him; Devadatta dropped a boulder from atop a hill [in an attempt to kill him]; and the cold wind forced him to seek robes for protection.7 And in addition, he was denounced by all the non-Buddhists, as I mentioned earlier. If we go by the prediction in the sutra [that hatred and jealousy will be much worse after the Buddha’s passing], then T’ien-t’ai and Dengyō did not fulfill the Buddha’s prophecy. In view of all this, it must be that a votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear in the world at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, just as the Buddha predicted.
In any event, on the seventh day of the twelfth month in the tenth year of Bun’ei (1273), a letter from the former governor of Musashi8 reached the province of Sado. The letter, to which he had set his seal, read:
We have heard a rumor that Nichiren, the priest exiled to the province of Sado, is leading his disciples and others in plotting some evil action. His scheme is nothing short of outrageous. From now on, those who follow that priest are to be severely punished. Should there be those who nevertheless still violate this prohibition, their names are to be reported. This is an official order.
The seventh day of the twelfth month in the tenth year of Bun’ei
To Echi no Rokurō Saemon-no-jō10
This letter reads that I am “plotting some evil action.” Non-Buddhists slandered the Buddha, saying that Gautama was an evil man. I, Nichiren, have personally suffered each of the nine great ordeals. Among them, [those of my persecutions that correspond to] Virūdhaka massacring the Shākya clan, going begging but being left with an empty bowl, and being forced to seek robes for protection from the cold wind have been great trials far surpassing those that occurred during the Buddha’s lifetime.11 These are hardships that T’ien-t’ai and Dengyō never met. Truly you should know that, adding Nichiren to the other three, there is now a fourth votary of the Lotus Sutra who has appeared in the Latter Day of the Law. How glad I am to fulfill the words of prophecy from the sutra: “How much more will this be so after his passing?” How sad I feel that all the people of this country will fall into the Avīchi hell! I will not go into detail here, or this letter will become too involved. You should seriously ponder this.
449The fourteenth day of the first month in the eleventh year of Bun’ei (1274), cyclical sign kinoe-inu
All my disciples and followers should read and listen to this letter. Those who are serious in their resolve should discuss it with one another.
Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu were both scholars who produced a thousand works. However, they expounded only the provisional Mahayana teachings. Though they understood the meaning of the Lotus Sutra in their hearts, they did not declare it in words. (An oral transmission exists concerning this.)13 T’ien-t’ai and Dengyō went so far as to expound it, but they left unrevealed the object of devotion of the essential teaching, the four bodhisattvas,14 the sanctuary, and the five characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Their reasons were, first, because the Buddha had not transferred these teachings to any of them, and second, because the time was not ripe and the people’s capacity had not yet matured. Now the time has arrived, and the four bodhisattvas will surely make their advent. I, Nichiren, was the first to understand this. It is said that the flight of a bluebird heralds the appearance of the Queen Mother of the West, and that the singing of a magpie foretells the arrival of a guest.15 [In the same way, there are omens announcing the advent of the four bodhisattvas.] All those who consider themselves my disciples should know that now is the time for the four bodhisattvas to appear. Therefore, even if it should cost you your lives, you must never discard your faith.
Toki, Saburō Saemon-no-jō, Kawanobe, Āchārya Yamato, and the rest of you, gentlemen and priests, should read this letter to one another and listen. In this defiled age, you should always talk together and never cease to pray for your next life.
Kawanobe and his people
Āchārya Yamato and the others16
all of my disciples and followers
Respectfully sent to Toki.
1. Lotus Sutra, chap. 10.
2. Ibid., chap. 14.
3. Quoted in Dengyō’s Essay on the Protection of the Nation. Tokuitsu’s subsequent remark also appears in the same source. Tokuitsu was a priest of the Dharma Characteristics school in Japan during the early Heian period (794–1185). Tokuitsu criticized the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, or Chih-i (538–597), and his one vehicle doctrine of the Lotus Sutra as provisional and debated this point with Dengyō until the latter’s death.
4. Keishin (n.d.) was a priest at Tōdai-ji temple in the early Heian period. He opposed Dengyō’s project of constructing a Mahayana ordination platform.
5. Cited in A Clarification of the Precepts.
6. Here refers to Mahayana scholars such as Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu. See four ranks of sages in Glossary.
7. The ninth persecution, that of King Ajātashatru loosing drunken wild elephants on Shakyamuni and his disciples, is omitted here.
8. The former governor of Musashi refers to Hōjō Nobutoki, who held the post of the governor of Musashi from 1267 to 1273 and was also the constable of Sado Province.
9. It is not certain whether Kan’e refers to Hōjō Nobutoki himself or to someone who functioned as his secretary.
10. Homma Rokurō Saemon, a retainer of Hōjō Nobutoki, who was steward of Niiho on Sado Island and deputy constable of the island.
11. “Virūdhaka massacring the Shākya clan” probably refers to the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and subsequent Sado Exile. The government attempted not only to behead the Daishonin at that time, but also arrested or punished many of his followers. While in the Buddha’s lifetime many people of the Shākya clan were killed by King Virūdhaka, Shakyamuni himself was not threatened with execution by the secular authorities; in this sense, the Daishonin’s ordeal surpassed that of the Buddha. Moreover, at the time of the Komatsubara Persecution, the Daishonin suffered a sword cut on his forehead, and his left hand was broken; and two of his followers were killed during the incident. As for the other two ordeals mentioned here, throughout much of his life, but especially while in exile on Sado, the Daishonin was forced to endure hunger, cold, and other privations far worse than those experienced by Shakyamuni Buddha for the sake of the Lotus Sutra.
12. On the original manuscript, probably having run out of space, the Daishonin inserted this postscript at the beginning of the letter, which is where it appears in The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin. In preparing the translation, we have moved it to the end.
13. This note is in the Japanese text. It probably refers to a passage from Great Concentration and Insight, which reads: “Vasubandhu and Nāgārjuna clearly perceived the truth in their hearts, but they did not teach it. Instead, they employed the provisional Mahayana teachings, which were suited to the times.”
14. Four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. See four bodhisattvas in Glossary.
15. The Queen Mother of the West is a legendary goddess who dwells on a mountain in the western part of China. A similar statement is found in A Collection of Stories and Poems. The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra states, “If a magpie chatters, it foretells the coming of a guest.”
16. Little is known about Kawanobe and Āchārya Yamato. Kawanobe, a lay believer, is thought to have been arrested and imprisoned at the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. One opinion identifies Āchārya Yamato with Āchārya Nisshō (1221–1323), one of the Daishonin’s six senior disciples.