Point One, concerning the bestowal of prophecy
Words and Phrases, volume seven, says, “To bestow means to give something to someone.”
68The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “prophecy” [of enlightenment] refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The word “bestow” refers to all the living beings in this country of Japan. But it is not bestowed on those who are without faith, nor do they receive it. Now Nichiren and his followers receive the prophecy that is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Again we may say that the bestowal of prophecy is a bestowal of prophecy given to the entire Dharma-realm. If one receives a bestowal of prophecy destining one to hell, that means that a bestowal of prophecy of evil karma is given to evildoers. And you can surmise from this how the same pattern will apply to the others of the Ten Worlds.
Where there is a prophecy of life there is certain to be death, and where there is a prophecy of death, there will also be rebirth. This is a bestowal of prophecy that is constant and unchanging throughout all the three existences of past, present, and future.
In effect, then, we may say that the four great voice-hearer disciples of intermediate capacity, Mahākāshyapa, Kātyāyana, Maudgalyāyana, and Subhūti, represent the four phases of birth, aging, sickness, and death that we pass through. Mahākāshyapa is the phase of birth, Kātyāyana is the phase of aging, Maudgalyāyana is the phase of sickness, and Subhūti is the phase of death.
When the Lotus Sutra appears, then these four phases of birth, aging, sickness, and death manifest themselves as the four great voice-hearer disciples. They are like the eight phases of a Buddha’s existence.
A prophecy is bestowed concerning the activities of the true aspect of all phenomena [the activities of birth, aging, sickness, and death]. It is a bestowal of prophecy concerning myōhō, the Wonderful Law, and therefore it is a bestowal of prophecy indicating the Dharma-realm. It is a bestowal of prophecy concerning renge, the lotus, and therefore it is a bestowal of prophecy indicating the purity of the Dharma-realm. It is a bestowal of prophecy concerning kyō, the sutra or continuance, and therefore indicating that the words and voices of living beings are constant and unchanging throughout the three existences of past, 69present, and future. It is a bestowal of prophecy that is conveyed in a single utterance, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Point Two, concerning Mahākāshyapa, Light Bright, in the passage “This disciple of mine Mahākāshyapa . . . will be able to become a Buddha named Light Bright Thus Come One.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The name Light Bright refers to the countenances and aspect of all living beings. The light is the burning of the fierce fires of hell. It is none other than the wisdom fire of the originally enlightened Buddha of limitless joy. The same applies to the others of the Ten Worlds, all the way up to the fruit of Buddhahood.
Now in the midst of the murk and darkness of slanders of the Law, when Nichiren and his followers shine forth the light brightness of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, this is in fact Mahākāshyapa, Light Bright Thus Come One.
Mahākāshyapa was outstanding for his devotion to dhūta, or ascetic practices. The word dhūta means to shake off or cast away. Now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren and his followers cast away all other religious practices and devote themselves solely to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what is referred to in the passage [in the “Treasure Tower” chapter] that reads, “This sutra is hard to uphold; / if one can uphold it even for a short while / I will surely rejoice / and so will the other Buddhas. / A person who can do this / wins the admiration of the Buddhas. / This is what is meant by valor, / this is what is meant by diligence. / This is what is called observing the precepts / and practicing dhūta.”
Point Three, on the words “when he has cast off his present body” in the passage “This disciple of mine, / the great Maudgalyāyana, / when he has cast off his present body, / will be able to see eight thousand, / two hundred ten thousand million / Buddhas, World-Honored Ones.”
70The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: From this passage arises the question of whether one casts off one’s present body or does not cast it off. To cast off means to do so temporarily or provisionally but not to cast off for all time. Casting off temporarily is representative of the essential teaching, while casting off for all time is representative of the theoretical teaching. But to assert that one must cast off one’s present body in fact goes against the principles that earthly desires are enlightenment and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. In the end, however, we may say that, when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they have already “cast off” their present bodies. This is because, in doing so, they have shown that they do not hesitate to give up their lives.
Again, if we take the word sha (“to cast off”) in the sense of “to offer up,” then we may say that one offers up the five elements that make up one’s body to the Dharma-realm. But this is not the same thing as casting one’s body away.
To assert that one must cast off one’s present body before one can attain Buddhahood is a doctrine of the provisional teachings. The true meaning of “casting off one’s body” consists in casting aside one’s feelings of attachment to such doctrines.
This passage on casting off the body is an expression of the concept of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. “Casting off one’s body” means returning to and embracing the fundamental principle, which is the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. This is what the Great Teacher Miao-lo means when he says in his commentary [On “Great Concentration and Insight,” volume five], “You should understand that one’s life and its environment at a single moment encompass the three thousand realms. Therefore, when one attains the Buddha way, one puts oneself in accord with this fundamental principle, and one’s body and mind at a single moment pervade the entire realm of phenomena.”
Point Four, on the words “Concerning the causes and conditions of past existences . . . I will now preach” in the 71passage “Concerning the causes and conditions of past existences / as they pertain to me and you / I will now preach.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “causes and conditions of past existences” refer to events that took place major world system dust particle kalpas ago. The Buddha here is preparing to explain these causes and conditions of past existences for the sake of the voice-hearer disciples of inferior capacity.
In the term “causes and conditions,” the word “causes” refers to the sowing of the seeds of Buddhahood. The word “conditions” refers to the conditions that prevailed in that time long ago; it may be interpreted to mean the conditions in which the seeds were grounded. Thus the term “causes and conditions” here refers to the sowing of the seeds of Buddhahood through association with [Shakyamuni in the age of] the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence.
Now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, this action is grounded upon and conditioned by causes in the past. This is why the Great Teacher Miao-lo [in his commentary, volume eight of On “The Words and Phrases] says, “You should understand that the fact that now, in this latter age, one is able to hear the Law, and, having heard it, to take faith in it, is due to the seeds planted in a past existence.” The “past existence” in the present case is the far off time of the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence, and the seeds are the seeds of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that were planted then. It is the planting of these seeds and the conditioning of them that is meant by the term “causes and conditions.”
The core of the essential teaching refers to the planting of the seeds of Buddhahood numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago and the conditioning surrounding it. That is, through the conditioning of the true cause, which is the Wonderful Law, one is able to attain Buddhahood.