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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nichiren on countenance, death, and attainments

"In your letter you write that your husband chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo day and night. You say that when the time drew near he chanted twice in a loud voice. And that his complexion was whiter than it had been in life, and that he didn’t lose his looks.

The Lotus Sutra reads, “[This reality consists of] the appearance... and their consistency from beginning to end.” The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom reads, “Those with a dark complexion at themoment of death will fall into hell.” The Protection Sutra reads, “There are fifteen types of signs that appear at one’s death showing that one will fall into hell. There are eight types of signs showing that one will be reborn in the realm of hungry spirits. There are five types of signs showing that one will be reborn in the realm of animals.” The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai’s Great Concentration and Insight reads, “The body turning dark represents the darkness of hell.”

Looking back, I have been studying the Buddha’s teachings since I was a boy. And I found myself thinking, “The life of a human being is fleeting. The exhaled breath never waits for the inhaled one. Even dew before the wind is hardly a sufficient metaphor. It is the way of the world that whether one is wise or foolish, old or young, one never knows what will happen to one from one moment to the next. Therefore I should first of all learn about death, and then about other things.”

So I gathered and considered the sacred teachings of Shakyamuni’s entire lifetime, as well as the writings and commentaries of scholars and teachers. Then I applied them as a bright mirror to the moment of people’s deaths and what followed after death, and found not the slightest discrepancy.

I saw that this person had fallen into hell, or that that person had been reborn in the world of human or heavenly beings. On the other hand, people in society were hiding the truth about the last moments of their teachers or their parents, saying only that they had been reborn in the Pure Land in the west. How pitiful that when their teacher has fallen into the evil paths of existence and is facing numerous unbearable sufferings, the disciples who remain in this world are praising his death, only making his sufferings in hell worse. They may be compared to one who clamps shut the mouth of a person guilty of a serious offense when he is being questioned, or to one who leaves another’s boil unopened so that it festers.

Be that as it may, you say in this p.760letter that his complexion was whiter than it had been in life and that he didn’t lose his looks.

T’ien-t’ai says, “Pure white represents the realm of heavenly beings.”4 Great Perfection of Wisdom says, “Those whose faces are pink and white, and whose features retain their proper shape, are reborn in the realm of heavenly beings.”5 The record regarding the death of theGreat Teacher T’ien-t’ai reads, “His countenance was fair.” The record about the death of the Tripitaka Master Hsüan-tsang reads, “His countenance was fair.” A standard that identifies the sacred teachings of the Buddha’s entire lifetime is the teaching that “those who have performed evil deeds will remain in the six paths of existence, and those who have performed good deeds will be reborn in the four noble worlds.”

Judging from these passages of proof from the texts and this actual proof, I would say that your husband has surely been reborn in the realm of heavenly beings.

You also say in your letter that at the moment of death he chanted the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra twice. The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, “After I have passed into extinction, [one] should accept and uphold this sutra. Such a person assuredly and without doubt will attain the Buddha way.” There is not a single insignificant matter among all the sacred teachings of the Buddha’s entire lifetime. All are the golden words of Shakyamuni Buddha, who is our father, the great sage, and the lord of teachings; all are the truth; all are true words. They may be categorized as Hinayana or Mahayana, exoteric or esoteric, provisional Mahayana or true Mahayana. When we compare the teachings of the Buddha with the teachings of the two deities and three ascetics, Taoists, and other non-Buddhists, these latter are false words and the Buddha’s teachings true words.

But among these true words, there are lies, true words, words of excessive flourishes, and abusive words. Among these, the Lotus Sutra is the truest of true words, and the truest of truths."


  1. They will lie or will hide the countenance of Daisaku Ikeda at the the time of his death. You may take this to the bank.

  2. As a Doctor I imagine that you would have seen some of your patients that were to far gone pass away. Can you verify that you have observed the change in colour as described in the Sutras that Nichiren quotes.

    I was discussing this topic today with a work colleague during our morning tea break. He said "what happens to black people colour at the moment of death"?
    I replied "well maybe they stay as dark as they already are since some of them that are as black as can be cannot become any darker and others turn lighter depending on their Karma"

    After agreeing with the feasibility of what I said,he said that this fundamentalist view shouldn't be taken literally because complexion alludes to higher metaphysical probabilities. I said 'yes I understand that a deeper meaning can be conveyed behind words but in this case it actually means what it says.' What do you think Mark ?!

  3. Truly, turning dark is not merely attributable to white people as rigor mortis is not merely attributable to white people. I imagine that enlightened black people would be described as rosy.

  4. Black roses would have a special beauty

  5. Black roses would have a special beauty