Question: Why should one discuss the relative worth of the various sutras?
Answer: The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states: “A person who can accept and uphold this sutra is likewise foremost among all living beings.” The “Medicine King” chapter of the Lotus Sutra lists ten comparisons indicating that this is the greatest of all the sutras preached by the Buddha in the past, present, and future. Of these ten comparison, the eighth is followed by the passage just quoted, and thus it becomes evident that the Buddha’s intention was not only to establish the superiority of the Lotus Sutra in comparison to the other sutras, but also to indicate that the votary of the Lotus Sutra is superior to all other kinds of persons.
The votaries of the Mahāvairochana Sutra and the other sutras are like the various mountains or stars or rivers and streams or the subjects of the various rulers. But the votaries of the Lotus Sutra are like Mount Sumeru, the sun and moon, or the great ocean.
And yet the world today despises and makes light of the Lotus Sutra, treating it like dirt or like a lowly subject of the ruler, while it respects and honors the erroneous men of the True Word teaching, awarding them the title of Teacher of the Nation and treating them like gold or like kings.
So the country has become full of persons of overbearing arrogance, causing the blue heavens to blaze with anger and the yellow earth to bring forth strange calamities. As small streams come together until they break down the walls and moats, so the sorrow and distress of the common people will pile up until it destroys the nation.
Question: In the Buddhist commentaries and the other types of non-Buddhist writings, are there any passages setting forth this view?
Answer: The memorial submitted to Emperor T’ai-tsung by the historian official Wu Ching states: “I make so bold as to observe that the government administered by Emperor T’ai-tsung, ruler in both civil and military affairs, has no equal in excellence, however far back we may seek in history. Even Yao of T’ang, Shun of Yü, Yü of the Hsia dynasty, T’ang of the Yin dynasty, Kings Wen and Wu of the Chou, Emperors Wen and Ching of the Han—none of these could compare to him.” Looking at the words of the memorial, we may wonder if Emperor T’ai-tsung was not a highly conceited ruler. But in fact he is praised because the skill and excellence with which he governed surpassed that of all these earlier sages mentioned in the memorial.
The Great Teacher Chang-an, speaking in praise of T’ien-t’ai, says: “Even the great scholars of India were not in a class with him, and the Chinese teachers—well, one need hardly mention them. This is no idle boast—the doctrine he taught was indeed of such excellence.” And the Dharma Teacher Ts’ung-i also praises him, saying, “Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu cannot compare with T’ien-t’ai.”
The Great Teacher Dengyō has these words of praise: “The Tendai Lotus school is superior to the other schools because of the sutra that it is founded on. Therefore, in declaring its superiority, it is not simply praising itself and disparaging others. I hope that gentlemen of wisdom will examine the matter of sutras and on that basis decide which school they will follow.”
And he also says, “Those who can uphold the Lotus are foremost among living beings. This is borne out by the words of the Buddha himself. How could it be mere self-praise?”
Now if I may state my own humble view on the matter, I would say that Shan-wu-wei, Kōbō, Jikaku, Chishō, and the others all not only go against the intentions of the Buddha, but are persons of grave error who steal from the Law and contradict the Great Teacher Dengyō. Therefore Shan-wu-wei was reprimanded by King Yama, Jikaku has no grave mound, [Kōbō’s] disciples declare that he entered a “state of deep meditation” [instead of acknowledging his death], and the temples [of Jikaku’s and Chishō’s lineage] are repeatedly visited by great fires or massive attacks from soldiers.
The old texts tell us that if one is a temporal manifestation of a Buddha or a bodhisattva, then one’s dead body will not suffer shame, and yet they met with such a fate!
Question: As was done by the six older schools of Buddhism, did the True Word school ever submit a document in which it acknowledged its inferiority to the Tendai school?
Answer: Such a document will be found at the end of the tenth volume of The Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra.” The Great Teacher Dengyō wrote A Clarification of the Schools Based on T’ien-t’ai’s Doctrine and included such material. Those who have eyes would accordingly do well to open the text and see what it says.
It is my hope that scholars of this latter age will heed the sage words of Miao-lo and Dengyō and will put no trust in the crass statements of Shan-wu-wei or Jikaku. And I hope that the followers of my own teachings will give deep thought to this matter. Do not let fear of others in your present existence lead you to do something that will invite evil consequences in an existence to come.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-fourth day of the first month
To the lay priest Ōta Kingo