Some raise the question: Although there seem to be the three kinds of enemies of the Lotus in the world today, practitioners of the Lotus Sutra are not found anywhere. It is difficult for us to call you a practitioner of the Lotus because there is a great deal of discrepancy. Affirming divine intervention in favor of a practitioner, the Lotus Sutra says: 'Heavenly servants will come to serve the man who upholds the Lotus Sutra, swords and sticks will not injure him, and poisons will not harm him;' 'His life in this world will be peaceful and he will be reborn in a better place in the future;' or 'He will be rewarded with happiness in this present world.' The sutra also lists the punishments for the slanderers of the practitioner: 'Should anyone hate and speak ill of the man who upholds the Lotus Sutra, his mouth will be sealed --- anyone who does harm to him will have his head split into seven pieces like a twig of an arjaka tree;' and 'If anyone, upon seeing a man upholding this sutra, exposes his faults, justifiably or not, such a man will be afflicted with white leprosy.'
They have a good reason to doubt me. So I will answer their question to dispel their doubt. It is said in the 'Never-Despising Bodhisattva' (20th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra: 'The practitioner of the Lotus will be spoken ill of, despised, or struck with sticks, tiles, and stones;' while it is said in the Nirvana Sutra that such a man will be killed or hurt. The Lotus Sutra also states that those who spread it will be the target of much hatred and jealousy even during the lifetime of the Buddha. The Buddha Himself had his finger injured by Devedatta, and He met serious crises like this nine times during His lifetime. Wasn't He a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra? Can't we call Bodhisattva Fukyo (Never-Despising) a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra because he was despised and beaten? Venerable Maudgalyayana was murdered by Brahmans armed with bamboo sticks. this occurred after he was assured that he would be a future Buddha in the Lotus Sutra. Bodhisaattva Kanadeva and Shishi Sonja, fourteenth and twenty-fifth patriarchs of Buddhism who transmitted the Buddha's teaching, were both murdered. Were they not practitioners of the Lotus? Chu Tao-sheng was banished to a temple in Su-chou, Fa-tao was banished to the south of the Yangtze River with his face branded with a hot iron rod. Were these monks not practitioners of the Lotus Sutra? both Sugawara Michizane of Japan and Po Chu-i of China were banished. Were they not worthy wise men?
I wonder why these men were persecuted? Suppose there is a person who never slandered the Lotus Sutra in his previous lives and is upholding it in this present life. Whoever accuses him for a trivial worldly offense, or for no offense at all, will immediately receive punishment. Asura demons who attacked Indra were immediately repulsed and the monster bird Kon-ji-cho who invaded Lake Anokuda to devour a dragon king was killed on the spot. Grand Master T'ien-t'ai asserts, "Our troubles and sufferings in this world are all due to our sins in our past lives, and rewards for our meritorious acts in this life will be received in our future lives." It is also said in the Shinjikan-gyo: 'Our virtues or vices in our past can be seen in our present fortune; our future fortune can be seen in our present acts,' and in the 'Never-Despising Bodhisattva' chapter of the Lotus Sutra: 'Thus the bodhisattva made amends for the past.' It seems that the Never-Despising (Fukyo) Bodhisattva was attacked with rocks and tiles because of his past sins.
It seems also that those who are destined for hell in the next life do not receive punishment even for serious sins in this life. For instance, some issendai do not even receive punishment. As for such people, it is stated in the Nirvana Sutra that Bodhisattva Kasyapa told the Buddha, 'Just as rays of sunlight reach the hearts of all through the pores of their skin, the teaching of the Buddha reaches all, planting in them the seed of Buddhahood.' The bodhisattvas then asked the Buddha: 'World-Honored One! How can we plant the seed of Buddhahood in a person who does not aspire to Buddhahood? The Buddha replied:
Suppose there is a person who. after listening to
the Nirvana Sutra, does not aspire to Buddhahood
but slanders the true dharma instead. Such a man
would dream a frightening dream of a rasetsu devil
at night, in which the devil would threaten to kill him
unless he immediately aspired for Buddhahood. Suppose
he, frightened, awoke, changed his mind and began
aspiring to enlightenment, such a man is a great
Thus, except for extremely wicked men, when people slander the true dharma, they will immediately dream like this and repent their folly. The nirvana Sutra also states that men of issendai, will never aspire for enlightenment. It is as certain as water not being found in dead trees and rocky mountains; as toasted seeds not germinating even in rain; as gems purifying dirty water but not the soil; as poison entering the human body when handled by a wounded hand; and as a great rain not remaining in the sky. A number of these similes are cited in the sutra to show that men of issendai are not punished in this world, because it is certain that they will go to the worst of hells in the next life. It is just like the notorious reigns of King Chieh of Hsia and King Chou of Yin (Shang) in ancient China. Natural calamities did not occur during their reigns as their rule was to be destroyed for their great sins.
It could also be that the true dharma has been slandered and guardian deities have abandoned this land of Japan. As a result, slanderers of the true dharma are not punished while those upholding it are left without divine assistance and are subjected to great difficulties. what is said in the Konkomyo-kyo: 'The number of those who practice the true dharma grow less by day' refers to this land today, when the true dharma is being slandered. I have explained this in detail in my Rissho ankoku-ron (Treatise on spreading Peace Throughout the Country by Establishing Righteousness).
In the final analysis, no matter how I am abandoned by gods and how much difficulty I encounter, I will uphold the Lotus Sutra at the cost of my own life. Sariputra could not attain Buddhahood after having practiced the way of Bodhisattva for as long as sixty kalpa because he could not endure the difficulty presented by a Brahman who asked him for his eyes. Those who had received the seed of Buddhahood from the Eternal Buddha and Daitsuchisho Buddha an incalculable number of kalpa ago could not obtain Buddhahood for as long as 500 or 3,000 dust-particle kala (gohyaku-jintengo or sanzen-jintengo) until they had listened to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra on Mt. Sacred eagle in this world. It was because they had been misled by these 'evil friends' to abandon the Lotus Sutra. No matter what happens, abandoning the Lotus Sutra would cause us to be plunged into hell.
I have made a vow. Even if someone says that he would make me the ruler of Japan on the condition to give up the Lotus Sutra and rely upon the Kanmuryo-ju-kyo for my salvation in the next life, or even if someone threatens me saying that he will execute my parents if I do not say 'Namu Amida Butsu,' and no matter how many great difficulties fall upon me, I will not submit to them until a man of wisdom defeats me by reason. Ther difficulties are like dust in the wind. I will never break my vow to become the eyes of Japan, and become a great vessel for Japan.
Some might wonder: 'How do you know that your banishment and death sentence are results of your sins in past lives?' To them I would answer that copper mirrors reflect only colors and shapes and the mirror of the First Emperor Ch'in used to test his subjects showed only present sins, but the mirror of Buddhhism shows the virtues or vices of one in the past. Therefore it is said in the Hatsunaion-gyo:
Good men! Since you have committed numerous
evil deeds and accumulated bad karma, you have
to suffer in compensation for them. You may be
slighted, may look ugly, may suffer from lack of
clothing or from insufficient food, unable to make
a fortune, born to a poor family, or suffer from royal
persecutions., and many other difficulties. The reason
you receive relatively light punishment like these in this
world is due to your merit upholding the dharma.
Otherwise you might have been punished much more
This matches me, Nichiren, as perfectly as two halves of a tally. It explains why I have been persecuted, and all my numerous doubts have faded away.
Let us tally this sutra, phrase by phrase against me. As for 'being slighted,' which is phrased in the Lotus Sutra as 'being slighted, despised, hated with jealousy,' I, Nichiren, have been despised more than twenty years. 'Being ugly-looking,' and 'suffering from lack of food and clothing,' 'unable to make a fortune,' 'born to a poor family,' 'suffering from royal persecutions,' and so on are all about me. Who can doubt it? It is stated in the Lotus Sutra that such men will 'be exiled many times' and this is restated in this Hatsunaion-gyo (Nirvana Sutra), as such men will 'have many difficulties.' The Hatsunaion-gyo says, 'Due to your merit of upholding the dharma, you will receive relatively light punishment in this world;' and this is explained in the Mo-ho-chih-kuan, fascicle 5 as follows:
The merit of trivial acts of practicing Buddhism
without tranquility of mind and meditation on truth
is not strong enough to bring out our past sins hidden
in ourselves. Only when we practice tranquility of
mind and meditation on truth under any circumstances,
can we bring our past sins out to the surface. We will
then be confronted at once by the Three Hindrances
and Four Devils."
In the immemorial past, I must have been born a wicked king and must have deprived practitioners of the Lotus Sutra of their food and clothing and their properties on numerous occasions just as some people today in Japan have been destroying the Lotus temples. I must have also cut off the heads of numerous practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. I may have purged myself of some of these grave sins but not all of them. Even if I have, there are the residual. In order to attain Buddhahood, I must completely compensate for all these serious sins. My merits in spreading the Lotus Sutra are still shallow while my sins in the past are still deep. If I had preached only provisional sutras, grave sins in my past lives would not have been revealed. It is like forging iron, for instance. Unless you heat it and forge it hard, hidden scars will not be seen. They appear only when the iron is hit hard many times by an anvil. Or it is analogous to squeezing hemp seeds. Unless squeezed hard, there is little oil. Ever since I, Nichiren strongly condemned those who slander the true dharma in Japan, I have been persecuted. It must be that grave sins in my past lives are revealed through my merits in defending the dharma in this life. It is just as a piece of iron remains black unless heated by fire, and becomes red when placed in fire. Even calm water makes waves when quickly stirred by a log. A sleeping lion roars loudly when awakened by a touch of a hand.
There is an analogy in the Nirvana Sutra:
a sickly poor woman did not have a house to live in
nor anyone to support her. She wandered around
begging for food. while staying in an inn she gave
birth to a child. The inn keeper chased her out.
Carrying the infant born only a short while ago,
she tried to go to some other place. On the way,
she was overtaken by a bad storm, suffered from
hunger and cold and was attacked by mosquitoes,
horse flies, bees, and other poisonous insects.
Coming to the Ganges River, she tried to wade
through it carrying her baby. She was carried
away by the flowing river, but she clung to her
infant until both of them drowned. Such a woman
will be reborn in the Brahma heaven due to her
merits of compassion. Monjusri! If a good man
wishes to uphold the true dharma, he must do the
same as the poor woman in sacrificing her own life
in the Ganges because of her love for her child. Good
man! Bodhisattvas upholding the dharma should also
be ready to sacrifice their lives. such people will be
able to attain Buddhahood without seeking it, just as
the poor woman will be reborn in the Brahma Heaven
without seeking it.
Grand Master Chang-an has interpreted this citation with the concepts of 'Three Hindrances' (evil passion, evil karmas, and painful retributions). You should read it. As I examine it comparing it to a person who spread the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age of the decadent Dharma, 'a poor person' refers to a man with little knowledge of Buddhism, and 'a woman' refers to a person with a little compassion. The 'inn' means the world of defilement. 'A child' refers to faith in the Lotus Sutra, which is the seed of Buddhahood. 'Being chased out of the inn' refers to the banishment, and the 'infant born only a short while ago' stands for the short period of time since the person began spreading the Lotus Sutra. The 'bad storm' by which she was overtaken refers to the shogunal order of banishment, while 'bees and horseflies' mean that he had been talked ill of and abused by ignorant people. The drowning of the mother and her baby refers to beheading for his unwavering faith in the Lotus Sutra. Rebirth in the Brahma Heaven means his attainment of Buddhahood.
The principle of karmic law, which decides our fate in future lives, is the same from hell to the Buddha-land. As for the retribution in hell, only those who have committed the Five Rebellious Sins and slanderers of the dharma would fall into the hell of incessant suffering (mugen jigoku). Offenders of other crimes, even a murderer of all people in China and Japan, would not fall in the hell of incessant suffering. Instead they would go to other hells and suffer many years there. Or it would be impossible for us in the world of desire to be reborn in the world of no desire (shikikai) even if we should uphold all the commandments and practice all the virtuous acts without tranquility of mind and meditation on truth. To be reborn the King of Brahma Heaven in the world of no desire, we have to accumulate the merit of compassion in addition to practicing meditation for beginners. The rebirth of this poor woman in the brahma heaven because of her compassion for her child does not follow ordinary karmic law. Chan-an has two interpretations on this, but after all it is nothing but motherly compassion for a child that made the difference. Concentration of mind on a child looks like meditation. Thinking of a child from the bottom of one's heart looks like compassion. this is probably the reason why the mother was reborn in the brahma Heaven although she had not accumulated any other favorable karma.
Also, many ways are claimed for leading to Buddhahood, such as the "mind only" doctrine (mind is the ultimate existence and all phenomena are its manifestations) of the Kegon School, the Sanron doctrine of the 'middle path of the eightfold negation' (The middle path shown through the negation of eight false views of reality: Neither birth nor extinction; neither cessation nor permanence; etc.), the 'consciousness only' doctrine of the Hosso School, and the Shingon doctrine of the 'five wheels' (earth, water, fire, wind, and space); but none of these seem to work in actuality. The only way seemingly leading us to Buddhahood is the '3,000 in one thought' doctrine of T'ien-t'ai.
However, we in the Latter Age of the Decadent Dharma do not possess the intelligence to understand it; nevertheless, anyone who upholds it with complete faith in it will be able to attain Buddhahood. Among all the sutras preached by Sakyamuni during His lifetime, only the Lotus Sutra embodies the gem of the '3,000 in one thought' doctrine. Doctrines of other sutras may look like gems, but in actuality they are merely yellow rocks. Just as, no matter how hard you squeeze sand, you will not get oil, or barren women will never have children, even wise men will not be able to attain Buddhahood by means of other sutras. As for the Lotus Sutra, even ignorant persons will be able to plant the seed of Buddhahood. This citation from the Nirvana Sutra stating, "Such people would be able to obtain Buddhahood", must have meant the attainment of Buddhahood by means of the Lotus Sutra.
Not only I, Nichiren but also my disciples will reach the land of Buddha unfailingly so long as we hold on to unwavering faith no matter what difficulty confronts us. I have always told my disciples not to have doubts about the lack of heavenly protection and not to lament the lack of tranquility in this world. I am afraid, however, that they might all have doubts about these and no longer listen to me. It seems only natural that ordinary people, in face of reality, will forget what they had promised. Having pity on their families, my lay followers must lament on being separated from wives and children in this world. However, had they ever been separated from their beloved families without sorrow throughout many lives in the past? Had they ever been separated for the sake of Buddhism? Theirs must have been the same sad separation. Since everyone has to be separated from his family, he should continue upholding the Lotus Sutra and attain Buddhahood in the land of the Eternal Buddha, so that he will be able to return to this world to save his wife and children.
This passage of this section is the most important. Part of an old SGI translation of this passage that I committed to memory reads,
"I Nichiren and my disciples can eventually attain Buddhahood unless we hold doubts about True Buddhism. You should never doubt the protection of the Buddhist gods. You should not be sorry that you are not leading a peaceful life. Although I have taught this to my disciples day and night, many deserted the Lotus Sutra. At a crucial moment the foolish will often forget what they have promised."
Nothing is more important than the moment and the last moment is the most important of all. We can say that the most crucial moment in life is the moment of death. All the good and the bad, the good and the bad thoughts, words and deeds, well up in an instant to create either a moment of inexpressible joy or profound despair. It truly is a moment of reckoning. Those who experience that moment as blissful joy are those who have attained Supreme and Perfect Enlightenment in life. They remain pink (radiant) and supple at the moment of death and for many hours and days thereafter. As Nichiren Daishonin teaches over and over again, nothing is more important than actual proof. Many claim to have attained insight but how few actually become Buddhas? The Dragon Gate teaches that it is harder to attain Buddhahood than for a carp who would become a dragon if he succeeds in climbing a tall waterfall laden with fisherman snares, nets, and archers. It is hard enough to attain Buddhahood when ones faith and practice is correct and perfect. How much more difficult if one one's faith and practice is damaged due to incorrect doctrine and viewpoints? That is why we should by all means practice as the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin teach.