teaching, practice, and proof ［教行証］ ( kyō-gyō-shō): The Buddha’s teaching, the practice of the teaching, and the proof, or merit—strictly speaking, enlightenment—resulting from the practice of the teaching. This concept is addressed in The Treatise on the Ten Stages Sutra, The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, and elsewhere. Tz’u-en (632–682) of the Chinese Dharma Characteristics (Fa-hsiang) school, in his Forest of Meanings in the Mahayana Garden of the Law, discusses teaching, practice, and proof in terms of each of the three periods of the Former Day, Middle Day, and Latter Day of the Law. In the Former Day of the Law, he says, there exist the Buddhist teaching, its practice, and proof of its efficacy (attainment of enlightenment); in the Middle Day, teaching and practice remain, but there is no longer proof; and in the Latter Day, only the teaching remains—there is neither practice nor proof. This became a standard way of describing the three periods, but the concept differs depending on the “teaching.”
Nichiren (1222–1282) says in On the Buddha’s Prophecy: “In the Latter Day of the Law, no benefit is derived from either Mahayana or Hinayana. Hinayana retains nothing but its teaching; it has neither practice nor proof. Mahayana still has its teaching and practice, but no longer provides any proof of benefit, either conspicuous or inconspicuous” (399). Concerning proof in the Latter Day of the Law, he says in The Teaching, Practice, and Proof: “Now in the Latter Day of the Law, only the teaching remains; there is neither practice nor proof. There is no longer a single person who has formed a relationship with Shakyamuni Buddha. Those who possessed the capacity to gain enlightenment through either the provisional or true Mahayana sutras have long since disappeared. In this impure and evil age, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the ‘Life Span’ chapter, the heart of the essential teaching, should be planted as the seeds of Buddhahood for the first time in the hearts of all those who commit the five cardinal sins and [those who］ slander the correct teaching” (473).