envoy of the Thus Come One ［如来の使］ ( tathāgata-dūta; nyorai-no-tsukai): Also, emissary of the Thus Come One or messenger of the Thus Come One. One whom the Thus Come One, or the Buddha, sends to propagate his teachings after his death. Tathāgata and dūta correspond to the Thus Come One and envoy, respectively. The “envoy of the Thus Come One” is emphasized in the “Teacher of the Law” (tenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The preceding chapters address persons of the two vehicles, or voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, and contain the Buddha’s prophecies of their future enlightenment. In contrast, the “Teacher of the Law” chapter and ensuing chapters address bodhisattvas and describe the practice and propagation of the sutra after the Buddha’s death. In the “Teacher of the Law” chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha speaks of the envoy of the Thus Come One as follows: “Medicine King, you should understand that these persons voluntarily relinquish the reward due them for their pure deeds and, in the time after I have passed into extinction, because they pity living beings, they are born in this evil world so they may broadly expound this sutra. If one of these good men or good women in the time after I have passed into extinction is able to secretly expound the Lotus Sutra to one person, even one phrase of it, then you should know that he or she is the envoy of the Thus Come One. He has been dispatched by the Thus Come One and carries out the Thus Come One’s work.”
The Buddha also says: “If one is capable of embracing the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, know that such a person is an envoy of the Buddha who thinks with pity of living beings. Those who are capable of embracing the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law relinquish their claim to the pure land and out of pity for living beings are born here. Know that persons such as these freely choose where they will be born, and choose to be born in this evil world so they may broadly expound the unsurpassed Law. . . . If there are those in a later age who can accept and embrace this sutra, they are my envoys sent out among the people to perform the Thus Come One’s work.”
The envoy of the Thus Come One is therefore one who is capable of embracing and spreading the sutra in the evil world and who has pity and compassion for living beings. Out of pity for living beings the envoy appears in the evil world and strives to bring benefit to them. In his writings, Nichiren (1222–1282) often refers to himself as the “envoy of the Thus Come One” out of his conviction that he was acting as the true practitioner of the Lotus Sutra who “carries out the Thus Come One’s work.” He also uses the expression “envoy of the Thus Come One” to describe his disciples who spread the Lotus Sutra.