Point One, regarding the “Simile and Parable” chapter
Words and Phrases, volume five, says, “Hi, or simile, means to compare one thing to another; yu, or parable, means to enlighten and instruct. . . . The Buddha’s great compassion is unceasing. And since his clever wisdom is boundless, he goes farther and sways the trees in order to instruct them [people of lesser capacities] concerning the wind, or holds a round fan to show them the moon.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “Great compassion” is like the mercy and compassion that a mother feels for her child. At present it is the mercy and compassion of Nichiren and his followers. Chang-an [in his commentary on the Nirvana Sutra] says, “One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.”
“Clever wisdom” refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and to the doctrine that the teachings of the other schools do not lead to the attainment of the way. It also means that we are “clever at difficult questions and answers” (chapter fifteen, Emerging from the Earth).
When Words and Phrases says that the Buddha “goes farther [and sways the trees],” you should understand that he set forth these similes and parables for the sake of the people in his time and further for those who will come after the Buddha’s passing.
The swaying of the trees represents earthly desires, and instructing us what the wind is means that we are taught that earthly desires are enlightenment. The round fan that the Buddha holds up is the realm of birth and death, and the moon shows us that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. Now, when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are 44mounting the vehicle of the great white ox “and proceeding directly to the place of practice” (chapter three).
On “The Words and Phrases,” volume five, says, “The trees, the round fan, the wind, the moon—these are simply symbols of the principle of the perfect teaching.”
It also says, “How should the true aspect of all phenomena as it is set forth in the preaching of the doctrine be something that is hidden for a time and again makes its appearance for a time? Rather it is like an endless wind that never dies, or the moon in the sky that appears constantly.” You should think about this passage of commentary.
Here “hiding” refers to death, and “appearing” refers to birth. The “endless wind” is our breath, and “the moon in the sky” is the moon of our minds. The ‘birth and death’ of the Lotus Sutra is something that abides constantly throughout the three existences of past, present, and future, not something that is hidden at one time and appears at another.
This wind that is our breath, when it blows, comes out in the form of words. It is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And the moon that is the enlightenment of the Dharma-realm of the single mind appears and abides constantly. This is what On “The Words and Phrases” means when it says, “These are simply symbols of the principle of the perfect teaching.”
“Perfect” refers to the Dharma-realm, and “teaching” to the intricate connections that bind together the three thousand worlds. “Principle” refers to the single principle embodied in the true aspect of all phenomena.
Point Two, regarding the passage “At that time Shāriputra’s mind danced with joy. Then he immediately stood up, pressed his palms together, gazed up in reverence at the face of the Honored One, and said to the Buddha, ‘Just now, when I heard from the World-Honored One this voice of the Law, my mind seemed to dance and I gained what I had never had before.’”
45Words and Phrases, volume five, says, “In this passage that describes the outward signs manifested by Shāriputra, the words ‘he immediately stood up, pressed his palms together’ refer to his acknowledgment of the Buddha’s words as it was expressed by his body.
“Previously, there had been the two realms, the provisional and the true, which were like two palms that are not pressed together. But now it is revealed that the provisional is identical with the true, and it is like two palms that are pressed together.
“As for the act of turning to face the Buddha, previously the provisional realm did not embody the cause for attaining Buddhahood, and the true did not embody the effect, that is, the attainment of Buddhahood. But now it is revealed that the provisional is identical with the true, and together they provide the great perfect cause for the attainment of Buddhahood. It is a cause that will invariably lead to the realization of the effect. Therefore the text says that Shāriputra pressed his palms together and turned to face the Buddha.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: Gasshō, or “pressing the palms together,” is another name for the Lotus Sutra. Kōbutsu, or “turning to face the Buddha,” means that one encounters and pays respect to the Lotus Sutra. Pressing the palms together is an element of the body. Turning to face the Buddha is an element of the mind. The passage describes how one dances with joy when one comes to the realization that the elements of the body and the mind are the Wonderful Law.
Again, gasshō, or pressing the palms together, has two other meanings. “Pressing” means myō, or wonderful, while “palms” refers to hō, or the Law [or phenomena as its manifestation]. Again we may say that “pressing” is the Lotus Sutra and “palms” are the twenty-eight chapters that make it up. Or again, “pressing” is the world of Buddhahood, and “palms” are the nine worlds. The nine worlds are the provisional, while the world of Buddhahood is the true. Thus the Great Teacher Miao-lo [in his Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra,” volume four] stated, “The 46nine worlds represent the provisional, the world of Buddhahood represents the true.” The Ten Worlds are all contained within these two characters gasshō. Of the countless phenomena of the three thousand realms, there are none that are not a part of gasshō.
Generally speaking, this gasshō represents the three types of Lotus teachings [that is, the secret and hidden Lotus, the basic Lotus, and the openly expounded Lotus]. The Lotus Sutra we are speaking of now is the Lotus Sutra as it exists before being divided into these three types. However, the openly expounded Lotus [which opens and unifies all the other teachings] is the Buddha’s true meaning. The Great Teacher Dengyō points out that the words “to the one Buddha vehicle” (chapter two, Expedient Means) represent the basic Lotus teaching [which replaces the three vehicles with the one vehicle], and that outside of the Wonderful Law, there is not so much as one line of any other sutra.
To turn to face the Buddha means to turn and pay respect to the sutra, each and every word of which is the golden body of the Buddha. The two characters gasshō embrace the entire Dharma-realm. Thus each and every being in the realm of hell or hungry spirits, as well as all the other phenomena in the three thousand worlds, just as they are, are embraced in this act of “pressing the palms together and turning to face the Buddha.”
For this reason, Shāriputra himself is the entire Dharma-realm. Shāriputra is the Lotus Sutra. Shā stands for the truth of non-substantiality, ri for the truth of temporary existence, and putra for the Middle Way. He is the Wonderful Law that is the perfect unification of the three truths.
Shāriputra is a Sanskrit word that may be translated as shinshi, or “body child.” The body child is the body and mind of the Ten Worlds. “Body” represents the element of the body or form in the Ten Worlds, and “child” represents the element of the mind in the Ten Worlds.
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are all Shāriputra. Shāriputra is none other than the 47Thus Come One Shakyamuni, the Thus Come One Shakyamuni is none other than the Lotus Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra is none other than the two elements in us, our bodies and our minds. This is the understanding that is spoken of in this chapter when we are told that this Shinshi, or Shāriputra, “heard . . . this voice of the Law.”
“Heard” refers to the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth, or the second of the six stages of practice. “This voice of the Law (hō)” means the voice of all phenomena (shohō). The voice of all phenomena is the Wonderful Law. This is what On “The Words and Phrases” means when it speaks of “an endless wind that never dies.” (See preceding section.)
The “endless wind” is the voice and sound of the Dharma-realm. It is the voice and sound that the “Belief and Understanding” chapter of the Lotus Sutra means when it says, “For we will take the voice of the Buddha way / and cause it to be heard by all.” “By all” means by all living beings in the Dharma-realm. And the voice and sound is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Point Three, regarding the passage “World-Honored One, for a long time now, all day and throughout the night, I have repeatedly taxed myself with this thought. But now I have heard from the Buddha what I had never heard before, a Law never known in the past, and it has ended all my doubts and regrets. My body and mind are at ease and I have gained a wonderful feeling of peace and security.”
Words and Phrases, volume five, says, “‘From the Buddha’—this signifies the attainment of joy through the body. ‘Heard a Law [never known in the past]’—this signifies the attainment of joy through the mouth. ‘Ended all my doubts and regrets’—this signifies the attainment of joy through the mind.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “My body and mind are at ease”—because of the realization that earthly desires are enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. The body gains assurance through the 48realization that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. The mind gains assurance through the realization that earthly desires are enlightenment.
“From the Buddha” indicates those followers who receive the teachings from Nichiren, and the joy of the mouth indicates Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The joy of the mind comes about through the realization that one is no longer confused or hampered by darkness, or ignorance.
Thus, when we stop to consider the matter, we realize that this passage is speaking of the threefold contemplation in a single mind and the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, or the fact that we can attain Buddhahood in our present bodies. The expedient means of the provisional teachings afford no such feeling of ease, no such peace and security. This is why the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra tells us that persons who follow those teachings “will travel perilous byways beset by numerous hindrances and trials.”
Point Four, regarding the “share of the Buddha’s Law” in the passage “born from the Buddha’s mouth, born through conversion to the Law, gaining my share (bun) of the Buddha’s Law”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This “share of the Buddha’s Law” refers to a share or portion of the Middle Way that Shāriputra gained enlightenment into, the first stage of security. The various distinctions or stages represented by the first stage in the theoretical teaching and the second stage and above in the essential teaching all arise out of this word “share” (bun). In effect, this one word “share” represents the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. Therefore those who are in hell attain the effect of Buddhahood in their “shares” or identity as dwellers in hell. And thus in the same way all the beings in the three thousand realms each in the entity of its own particular “share” attain Buddhahood.
This in truth is what is meant when it is said that we may attain 49Buddhahood in our present identities. Now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are in that share or identity attaining Buddhahood.
Bun, or “share,” may also mean to separate or to distinguish, and refers to the making of a clear distinction between the provisional teachings, which can never lead to enlightenment, and the Lotus Sutra, which enables one to attain Buddhahood.
Again, the bun, or “share,” is that embodied in the “Life Span” chapter of the essential teaching, the share that is the original share or endowment of each and every being.
Summing up, then, we may say that this share of enlightenment that Shāriputra attained, the first stage of security in the theoretical teaching, is concerned only with an understanding of the doctrinal study of the sutra. But when one truly attains the enlightenment of the first stage of security [the stage of non-regression and the true cause of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment], one has reached the highest level of the entire sutra.
Point Five, regarding the words “turned round and round of themselves” in the passage “The heavenly robes they had scattered remained suspended in the air and turned round and round of themselves.”
Volume five of On “The Words and Phrases” says, “It is just as The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom states. When the sutra says that the robes ‘turned round and round of themselves,’ it indicates that, when the multitude heard Shāriputra receive a prediction that he would attain Buddhahood, their Dharma natures turned or appeared naturally and of themselves, thus turning or transforming all the causes and effects that pertained to them, their own being and their environments, their selves and others about them.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The proof that insentient beings such as plants and trees can attain Buddhahood derives from this passage on how the robes “turned round and round of themselves.” For it explains in full how, 50because of the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, both the self and the environment are one in attaining Buddhahood. And it indicates that Nichiren and his followers, in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the very ones who prove that it is possible for plants and trees to attain Buddhahood. The “turning round and round” is done by the five characters of the daimoku, and “of themselves” indicates that it is something done by us practitioners.
You should give very careful thought to these words in the fifth volume of On “The Words and Phrases.”
Point Six, regarding the words “all [acting] at the same time” in the passage “Heavenly beings made music, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand varieties, all [acting] at the same time in the midst of the air, raining down quantities of heavenly flowers and speaking these words”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “time” refers to the time of the Latter Day of the Law. “All [acting]” refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. “All” refers to the words “in the end to dwell in the single vehicle” in the passage “As the light of the sun and moon / can banish all obscurity and gloom, / so this person as he passes through the world / can wipe out the darkness of living beings, / causing immeasurable numbers of bodhisattvas / in the end to dwell in the single vehicle” (chapter twenty-one, Supernatural Powers). Now Nichiren and his followers center on the five characters of the daimoku and are not concerned with any other practices.
Again the Record says: The words and sayings of the Ten Worlds are all activities springing from a single chanting of the daimoku. How then could they fail to have an effect?
Point Seven, on using similes and parables to obtain understanding, as in the passage “Moreover, Shāriputra, I too will now make use of similes and parables to further clarify this doctrine. For through similes and parables those who are wise can obtain understanding.”
51Great Concentration and Insight, volume five, says, “Wisdom means being able to use similes as a means by which to understand the teachings.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage refers to the way in which the image of a mirror expresses the perfect unification of the three truths. Generally speaking, the simile of a mirror refers to the way in which one can see one’s image and reflection in a mirror. The mirror is the mirror of the single mind. Although there are various sayings associated with mirrors, in the end they are founded on the particular power and virtue of mirrors, their ability to reflect all of the ten thousand images1 or phenomena. The five characters Myoho-renge-kyo similarly reflect the ten thousand phenomena, not overlooking a single one of them.
The Record also speaks of five mirrors. In the mirror of myō are reflected the wonders of the Dharma-realm; in the mirror of hō is reflected the entity or essence of the Dharma-realm; in the mirror of ren are reflected the effects of the Dharma-realm; in the mirror of ge are reflected the causes of the Dharma-realm; and in the mirror of kyō are reflected the words and sounds of the ten thousand phenomena.
Again we may say that in the mirror of myō are reflected the Flower Garland teachings; in the mirror of hō, the Āgama teachings; in the mirror of ren, the Correct and Equal teachings; in the mirror of ge, the Wisdom teachings; and in the mirror of kyō, the Lotus teachings. One should understand how they relate to each other both in the order they were preached and in the reverse order.2
The five bodily sections,3 or the five elements that make up 52the bodies of living beings such as us, are reflections of Myoho-renge-kyo, and therefore we should learn to use the “Treasure Tower” chapter as our mirror. It will enable us to determine clearly whether our faith is genuine or whether we are committing slander. A mirror that allows us to see our own images and reflections—such is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Point Eight, on the words “only one gate” in the passage “Shāriputra, suppose that in a certain town in a certain country there was a very rich man. . . . His own house was big and rambling, but it had only one gate.”
Words and Phrases, volume five, says, “The words ‘had only one gate’ are a simile that derives from the earlier passage ‘I employ various different doctrines [literally, doctrine gates] / to disseminate the Buddha way.’ . . .
“There are two kinds of gates, the gate to a house and the gate to a vehicle. The house is the realm of birth and death, and the gate is the all-important path by which one gains egress from the house. Here it represents the ultimate doctrine of the expedient teachings. The vehicle is the doctrine of the Great Vehicle, and the gate to it is the ultimate expression of the perfect teaching.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The one gate is the mind that has faith in the Lotus Sutra. The vehicle is the Lotus Sutra, and the ox that draws the vehicle is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The house is the realm of earthly desires. Passing through the round of births and deaths, one makes one’s way on the land of the Dharma nature, or enlightenment, that is inherent within oneself.
Point Nine, on the passage “But now this threefold world / is all my domain, / and the living beings in it / are all my children. / Now this place / is beset by many pains and trials. / I am the only person / who can rescue and protect others.”
53Words and Phrases, volume five, says, “In the passage beginning ‘But now this threefold world,’ the six lines of this, the second passage describing what is seen, represent a verification of the earlier prose passage that reads, ‘He sees living beings seared and consumed by birth, aging, sickness and death’ (chapter three). This second passage on what is seen corresponds to the part of the parable that describes the fire breaking out in the house. The words that begin with the line ‘I am the only person,’ the third passage on what is seen, are a verification of the earlier prose passage that reads, ‘When the Buddha sees this, then he thinks to himself, I am the father of living beings and I should rescue them from their sufferings’ (ibid.). It corresponds to the part of the parable that describes how the rich man in alarm enters the burning house.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This passage is one that deals with the concept of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. With regard to the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, the theoretical teaching makes clear the two thousand worlds of the realm of the five components and the realm of living beings, while the essential teaching makes clear [the one thousand worlds of] the realm of the environment as well.
Again we may say that the words “But now this threefold world” relate to the realm of the environment. The words “and the living beings in it” relate to the realm of the five components. And the words “Now this place / is beset by many pains and trials. / I am the only person / who can rescue and protect others” relate to the realm of living beings. Or again we may say that the words “But now this threefold world” represent the Thus Come One of the Dharma body [in the doctrine of the three bodies]. The words “and the living beings in it / are all my children” represent the Thus Come One of the reward body. And the words “Now this place / is beset by many pains and trials” etc., represent the Thus Come One of the manifested body.