Selection of the Time, The ［撰時抄］ ( Senji-shō): One of Nichiren’s five or ten major writings. Nichiren composed this treatise at Minobu in Kai Province, Japan, in 1275 and sent it to a believer named Yui who lived in Nishiyama of Suruga Province. As with a number of his other important works, it takes the form of a dialogue between the author and a hypothetical questioner. “Time” in the title refers to the Latter Day of the Law, when the “pure Law” of Shakyamuni’s teaching is destined to become obscured and lost, and the “great pure Law” of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is to be spread.
In the treatise, Nichiren discusses the five five-hundred-year periods following the death of Shakyamuni, which are described in the Great Collection Sutra. He outlines the events pertaining to Buddhism during each period, as Buddhism spread from India to China and then to Japan, and the age shifted from the Former Day to the Middle Day and finally to the Latter Day of the Law. Nichiren then proclaims that during the last of the five five-hundred-year periods, or the first five hundred years of the Latter Day, the great pure Law will spread far and wide throughout the world. He describes the great pure Law as “a correct Law that is supremely profound and secret, one that, though expounded in full by the Buddha, in the time since his passing has never yet been propagated by Mahākāshyapa, Ānanda, Ashvaghosha, Nāgārjuna, Asanga, or Vasubandhu, nor even by T’ien-t’ai or Dengyō” (560). Nichiren sees himself in this context as the votary of the Lotus Sutra destined to propagate this Law. In this regard, he writes: “A person who spreads the Lotus Sutra is father and mother to all the living beings in Japan. For, as the Great Teacher Chang-an says, ‘One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.’ If so, then I, Nichiren, am the father and mother of the present emperor of Japan, and the teacher and lord of the Nembutsu believers, the Zen followers, and the True Word priests” (551).
The latter half of the treatise exposes what Nichiren sees as the errors of the Pure Land ( Jōdo), Zen, and True Word (Shingon) schools, referring to them as the root causes of the calamities besetting Japan at that time. Nichiren holds the leading priests of the True Word school particularly responsible for all of this. Not only does he take them to task for incorporating T’ien-t’ai’s doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life into their own teaching, but also for asserting the superiority of their Mahāvairochana Sutra over the Lotus Sutra. Making the point that Buddhist and non-Buddhist texts define a sage as one who knows the future, Nichiren declares that he is a great sage, because the predictions he made on the three occasions he remonstrated with the authorities all came true. These are his predictions of internal strife and foreign invasion. He declares that he has lived the passage in the “Encouraging Devotion” (thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which foretells the appearance of the three powerful enemies, and without begrudging his life he has struggled continually to spread the great pure Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.