ESSENTIALLY, there are two meanings implied in the teaching that the Nembutsu leads to the hell of incessant suffering.
The first meaning implied is that Nembutsu practitioners will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. In The Nembutsu Chosen above All the Honorable Hōnen, the patriarch of all the Nembutsu believers in Japan, refers to Shakyamuni Buddha’s entire lifetime of sacred teachings, or what are known as all the Hinayana and Mahayana sutras, including those such as the Lotus Sutra, the Mahāvairochana Sutra, and the Great Wisdom Sutra, and claims that, except for the three Pure Land sutras, one should discard, close, ignore, and abandon them.
In this connection, the Two-Volumed Sutra, one of the three Pure Land sutras that the Honorable One praises as the mirror of truth, says that Amida Buddha, carrying out practices to attain enlightenment in a past life as the monk Dharma Treasury, made forty-eight vows in which he resolved to save people “excepting only those who commit the five cardinal sins and those who slander the correct teaching.”1
Though it may be said that the Honorable Hōnen is included among those who “meditate on me [Amida Buddha] ten times” to be saved, because he writes that people should close the gate to the Lotus Sutra, is he not one who would be excluded from the original vow2 of Amida Buddha? And it follows then that the same would also be true of his disciples and lay believers.
A passage in the Lotus Sutra reads, “If a person fails to have faith [but instead slanders this sutra], . . . When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avīchi hell.”3
If Amida Buddha’s original vow and the passage in the Lotus Sutra are true, then is not the Honorable Hōnen one who has fallen into the hell of incessant suffering?
All the sutras jointly conclude that when the teacher falls into hell, so will the disciples, and when the disciples fall, so will the lay followers. It is, for example, similar to what happens to the retainers of a traitor. If you have doubts, you should examine Nembutsu Chosen above All. (This is the first meaning.)
The second meaning implied in the teaching that the Nembutsu leads to the hell of incessant suffering is found in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, an introductory teaching to the Lotus Sutra, where it says, “I made use of the power of expedient means. But in 302these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth.” A later passage reads, “Though immeasurable, boundless [inconceivable asamkhya kalpas] may pass, they will in the end fail to gain unsurpassed enlightenment.” Referring to the period from the time Shakyamuni first attained enlightenment to his preaching at White Heron Lake, the sutra declares that it lasted forty and more years. It mentions all the sutras preached during this period and classifies them as the four great groups of sutras.4 And the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, referring to one of the four groups, says, “Then I preached the twelve divisions of the correct and equal sutras.”5 This statement refers to the three sutras that the Nembutsu followers believe in. The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra indicates those sutras and says that they are not the truth.
Next, the Lotus Sutra says, “The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth.”6 This passage is declaring that in contrast to teachings such as the Nembutsu, which are not the truth, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the truth.
A later passage reads, “The Buddha himself dwells in this great vehicle, . . . If I used a lesser vehicle to convert even one person, I would be guilty of stinginess and greed, but such a thing would be impossible.”7
This passage means that if the Buddha were to have kept the Lotus Sutra to himself and have passed on to people only the sutras of the preceding forty and more years, such as the Meditation Sutra and the other sutras of the Nembutsu, and if he were to have ended up keeping quiet about the Lotus Sutra without preaching it, he would have been a stingy, greedy person who would surely have fallen into the three evil paths. It is saying that even the Buddha, if he were to have spent his entire life practicing only the Nembutsu, without changing to the Lotus Sutra, would certainly have fallen into hell. How, then, is it possible for ordinary people in this latter age who spend their entire lives single-mindedly reciting Namu Amida Butsu, never changing to the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, to escape the three evil paths of existence?
In the second volume, the Lotus Sutra reads, “Now this threefold world is all my domain.”8 This passage means that the sixty-six provinces and two islands that comprise the land of Japan are the possessions of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. The same is true of the sahā world. It is certainly not the possession of Amida.
The sutra goes on to say, “And the living beings in it are all my children.” Though the 4,994,828 men and women in Japan have each a mother and father, when we examine the matter, we find that they are in fact the children of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. The major and minor gods worshiped at over three thousand shrines are also the children of Shakyamuni Buddha. They most certainly are not the children of Amida Buddha.
The ninth month in the first year of Bun’ei , cyclical sign kinoe-ne
To Nambu Rokurō Tsunenaga