four stages of faith and the five stages of practice ［四信五品］ ( shishin-gohon): Stages of faith in and practice of the Lotus Sutra formulated by T’ien-t’ai (538–597) in The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra on the basis of the “Distinctions in Benefits” (seventeenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The four stages of faith are for those who embrace the Lotus Sutra during Shakyamuni’s lifetime, and the five stages of practice are for believers in the sutra after Shakyamuni’s death. The four stages of faith are (1) to believe in and understand the sutra even for a moment, (2) to generally understand the import of the words of the sutra, (3) to expound the teaching of the sutra widely for others, and (4) to realize with deep faith the truth expounded by the Buddha.
The five stages of practice are (1) to rejoice on hearing the Lotus Sutra, (2) to read and recite the sutra, (3) to expound the sutra to others, (4) to embrace the sutra and practice the six pāramitās, and (5) to perfect one’s practice of the six pāramitās. In On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice, Nichiren (1222–1282) defines the correct stage for practitioners in the Latter Day of the Law to be the first of the four stages of faith and the first of the five stages of practice, that is, to believe in and understand the Lotus Sutra even for a moment and to rejoice on hearing the sutra. See also four stages of faith.