“Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter ［常不軽菩薩品］ ( Jōfukyō-bosatsu-hon): Abbreviated as the “Never Disparaging” chapter. The twentieth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which Shakyamuni illustrates, with the story of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, both the benefit of embracing and practicing the Lotus Sutra and the gravity of retribution for slandering its votaries. The chapter describes this bodhisattva as having lived in the Middle Day of the Law after the death of a Buddha named Awesome Sound King, at a time when arrogant monks held great authority and power. Never Disparaging venerated all people, repeating the phrase “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain buddhahood.”
Monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen mocked him and attacked him with staves and stones. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, however, persevered in his practice and achieved purification of his six senses through the benefit of the Lotus Sutra. When the arrogant clerics and laypersons who had treated Never Disparaging with ridicule and contempt heard his preaching and saw that he had purified his senses, they all took faith in him and became his followers. But due to their past offenses of treating him with animosity, they did not encounter a Buddha, hear of the Law, or see the community of monks for two hundred million kalpas. For a thousand kalpas, they underwent great suffering in the Avīchi hell. After they had finished paying for their offenses, they again encountered Bodhisattva Never Disparaging and received instruction from him in attaining supreme perfect enlightenment.
This story illustrates the principle of attaining enlightenment through a reverse relationship, or the connection established with the correct teaching through rejecting or slandering it. It illustrates the great power of the Lotus Sutra to save even those who oppose or slander it. Shakyamuni identifies Bodhisattva Never Disparaging as himself in a past existence and reveals that those who disparaged him are present in the assembly of the Lotus Sutra on Eagle Peak. Shakyamuni further states that these people are now at the stage of practice where they will never regress in their pursuit of supreme perfect enlightenment. He then urges that the Lotus Sutra be single-mindedly embraced and propagated after his death.