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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Nichiren on fire and water

"Among the people who believe in the Lotus Sutra today, some people's faith is like fire and other's faith is like water. Some people are aroused like burning fire during a sermon, but once they go away they forget all that they heard. When I say 'like water,' I mean a person who has constant faith. You have always called on me without fail, and therefore, your faith is like water. This is wonderful." -- Ueno-dono Gohenji (A Reply to Lord Ueno)

"Today there are people who have faith in the Lotus Sutra. The belief of some is like fire while that of others is like water. When the former listen to the teachings, their passion flares up like fire, but as time goes on, they tend to discard their faith. To have faith like water means to believe continuously without ever regressing. Since you visit me constantly, regardless of the difficulties, your belief is comparable to flowing water. It is worthy of great respect!" - The Two Kinds of Faith

"In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear without fail. The greater the hardships befalling him, the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith. Doesn’t a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers flow into the sea, but does the sea turn back their waters? The currents of hardship pour into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; nor does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers, there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra. As T’ien-t’ai stated, “The various rivers flow into the sea, and logs make a fire burn more briskly.” - A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering

"Answer: A small river can accommodate the water flowing into it from dew, brooks, wells, ditches, and little streams, but it cannot accommodate the water from a big river. A big river can accommodate the water from a small river with its dew, brooks, and so forth, but it cannot accommodate the water from the great ocean. Now the Āgama sutras are like the small river with its wells, streams, brooks, and dew, while the sutras of the Correct and Equal period, the Amida Sutra, the Mahāvairochana Sutra, and the Flower Garland Sutra are like the big river that accommodates the small river. But the Lotus Sutra is like the great ocean that can hold all the water from dew, brooks, wells, streams, small rivers, big rivers, and the rains from heaven, without losing a single drop.

Suppose that a person is burning with fever. If he sits down beside a large body of cold water and stays there for a while, his fever will abate, but if he lies down beside a little body of water, he will continue to suffer as before. In the same way, if an icchantika, or person of incorrigible disbelief, who has committed the five cardinal sins and has slandered the Law, should try to cool himself beside the little bodies of water that are the Āgama, Flower Garland, Meditation, and Mahāvairochana sutras, the raging fever caused by his great offenses would never be dispelled. But if he should lie down on the great snowy mountain that is the Lotus Sutra, then the raging fever caused by the five cardinal sins, his slander of the Law, and his incorrigible disbelief would be dispelled instantly." - On Repaying Debts of Gratitude

"Is not the meaning of the sutra and the commentary that the way to Buddhahood lies within the two elements of reality and wisdom? Reality means the true nature of all phenomena, and wisdom means the illuminating and manifesting of this true nature. Thus when the riverbed of reality is infinitely broad and deep, the water of wisdom will flow ceaselessly. When this reality and wisdom are fused, one attains Buddhahood in one’s present form." - The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood

 The Universal Salty Taste

THERE are six kinds of flavors. The first is subtle, the second, salty, the third, pungent, the fourth, sour, the fifth, sweet, and the sixth, bitter. Even if one were to prepare a feast of a hundred flavors, if the single flavor of salt were missing, it would be no feast for a great king. Without salt, even the delicacies of land and sea are tasteless.

The ocean has eight mysterious qualities. First, it gradually becomes deeper. Second, being deep, its bottom is hard to fathom. Third, its salty taste is the same everywhere. Fourth, its ebb and flow follows certain rules. Fifth, it contains various treasure storehouses. Sixth, creatures of great size exist and dwell in it. Seventh, it refuses to house corpses. Eighth, it takes in all rivers and heavy rainfall without either increasing or decreasing.

[The Nirvana Sutra] compares “it gradually becomes deeper” to the Lotus Sutra leading everyone, from ordinary people who lack understanding to sages who possess it, to attain the Buddha way. The reason [the sutra uses the metaphor] “being deep, its bottom is hard to fathom” is that the realm of the Lotus Sutra can only be understood and shared between Buddhas, while those at the stage of near-perfect enlightenment or below are unable to master it. “Its salty taste is the same everywhere” compares all rivers, which contain no salt, to all sutras other than the Lotus, which offer no way to attain enlightenment. [The Nirvana Sutra] compares the water of all the rivers flowing into the sea and becoming salty to the people of different capacities instructed through the various provisional teachings who attain the Buddha way when they take faith in the Lotus Sutra. It compares “its ebb and flow follows certain rules” to upholders of the Mystic Law who even though they were to lose their lives would attain the stage of non-regression. It compares “it contains various treasure storehouses” to the countless practices and good deeds of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the blessings of the various pāramitās being contained in the Mystic Law. The reason for “creatures of great size exist and dwell in it" is that, because the Buddhas and bodhisattvas possess great wisdom, they are called “creatures of great size,” and that their great bodies, great aspiring minds, great distinguishing features, great evil-conquering force, great preaching, great authority, great transcendental powers, great compassion, and great pity all arise naturally from the Lotus Sutra. The reason for “it refuses to house corpses” is that with the Lotus Sutra one can free oneself for all eternity from slander and incorrigible disbelief. The reason for “without either increasing or p.40decreasing” is that the heart of the Lotus Sutra is the universality of the Buddha nature in all living beings.

The brine in a tub or jar of pickled vines ebbs and flows in accordance with the brine of the sea. One who upholds the Lotus Sutra and is subjected to imprisonment is like the salt in a tub or jar, while the Thus Come One Shakyamuni who freed himself from the burning house is like the salt of the sea. To condemn one who upholds the Lotus is to condemn the Thus Come One Shakyamuni. How astonished Brahmā, Shakra, and the four heavenly kings must be! If not now, when will the ten demon daughters’ vow to split the head of one who persecutes a follower of the Lotus into seven pieces be carried out?

Ajātashatru, who had imprisoned King Bimbisāra, suddenly broke out in virulent sores in his present existence. How can one who has imprisoned an upholder of the Lotus not suffer from virulent sores in this existence?


"Among all the sutras, such as the Flower Garland Sutra, the Āgama sutras, the Correct and Equal sutras, the Wisdom, Profound Secrets, Amida, Nirvana, Mahāvairochana, Diamond Crown, Susiddhikara, and Secret Solemnity sutras, all the sutras preached by the Thus Come One Shakyamuni, all the sutras preached by the Thus Come One Mahāvairochana, all the sutras preached by the Thus Come One Amida, all the sutras preached by the Thus Come One Medicine Master, and all the sutras preached by the various Buddhas of the three existences of past, present, and future—among all these sutras, the Lotus Sutra stands foremost. Thus these other sutras are analogous to the large rivers, middle-sized rivers, and small rivers, while the Lotus Sutra is likened to the great ocean.

The ocean possesses ten virtues, in which it surpasses the rivers. First, the ocean gradually becomes deeper, which is not true of rivers. Second, the ocean refuses to house corpses, which is not true of rivers. Third, the ocean obliterates the names of the various rivers that flow into it, while rivers retain their names. Fourth, the ocean’s taste is the same everywhere, while this is not true of rivers. Fifth, the ocean contains various treasures that are not found in rivers. Sixth, the ocean is extremely deep, which is not true of rivers. Seventh, the ocean is boundless in breadth, which rivers are not. Eighth, the ocean houses creatures of great size, which is not true of rivers. Ninth, the ocean has tides that ebb and flow, but rivers do not, and tenth, the ocean absorbs the waters of torrential rains or huge rivers without ever overflowing, but this is not true of rivers.

The Lotus Sutra likewise has ten virtues, while the other sutras have ten faults. In the case of this sutra, the benefits gained from it increase in depth and bounty, and they continue down to the fiftieth person who hears of it. In the case of the other sutras, however, there is no benefit to be gained even by the first person who hears them, much less by the second, third, or fourth person, and so on down to the fiftieth person.

Though rivers may be deep, their depth cannot match even the shallow places of the ocean. And though the various other sutras may claim that because of a single character, a single phrase, or the ten meditations1 they encompass evil people who have committed the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins, such benefits cannot match those gained by the fiftieth person who hears a single character or a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra and responds with joy." - The Essence of the Medicine King Chapter

"Be extremely cautious, and for the time being never submit yourself to writing a pledge, whatever it may concern. No matter how furiously a fire may rage, it burns out after a while. On the other hand, water may appear to move slowly, but its flow does not easily vanish. Since you are hot-tempered and behave like a blazing fire, you will certainly be deceived by others. If your lord coaxes you with soft words, I am sure you will be won over, just as a fire is extinguished by water. Untempered iron quickly melts in a blazing fire, like ice put in hot water. But a sword, even when exposed to a great fire, withstands the heat for a while, because it has been well forged. In admonishing you in this way, I am trying to forge your faith." - The Hero of the World

"Myō in India is rendered as sad, and in China, as miao. Myō means to be fully endowed, which in turn has the meaning of “perfect and full.” Each word and each character of the Lotus Sutra contains within it all the 69,384 characters that compose the sutra. To illustrate, one drop of the great ocean contains within it the waters of all the various rivers that flow into the ocean, and a single wish-granting jewel, though no bigger than a mustard seed, is capable of showering down the treasures that one could wish for with all the wish-granting jewels.: The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra

"The Lotus Sutra states that Bodhisattva Superior Practices and the others will appear in the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law to propagate the five characters, the embodiment of the two elements of reality and wisdom. The sutra makes this perfectly clear. Who could possibly dispute it? I, Nichiren, am neither Bodhisattva Superior Practices nor his envoy, but I precede them, spreading the five characters to prepare the way. Bodhisattva Superior Practices received the water of the wisdom of the Mystic Law from the Thus Come One Shakyamuni and causes it to flow into the wasteland of the people’s lives in the evil world of the latter age. This is the function of wisdom. Shakyamuni Buddha transferred this teaching to Bodhisattva Superior Practices, and now Nichiren propagates it in Japan. With regard to the transfer of teachings, it is divided into two categories: general and specific. If you confuse the general with the specific even in the slightest, you will never be able to attain Buddhahood and will wander in suffering through endless transmigrations of births and deaths." - The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood.

"If the water[of faith] is clear, then the moon will not fail to be reflected there..." - Opening of the Eyes

"There are many degrees of slander: shallow and profound, slight and heavy. Even among those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, very few uphold it steadfastly both in mind and in deed. Few are the practitioners who are able to uphold this sutra. But those who do will not suffer serious retribution even if they have committed minor offenses against the sutra. Their strong faith expiates their offenses as surely as a flood extinguishes tiny fires." - The Embankments of Faith

"This time I am sure that you will give up your faith. If you do, I have not the slightest intention of reproaching you for it. Likewise, neither should you blame me, Nichiren, when you have fallen into hell. It is in no way my responsibility. It is an undeniable fact that fire can at once reduce even a thousand-year-old field of pampas grass to ashes, and that the merit one has formed over a hundred years can be destroyed with a single word." - The Three Obstacles and Four Devils

“The good fortune you gain thereby... cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water.” - Lotus Sutra Chapter 23

"The lay priest felt deeply concerned about the life to come and had for a long time devoted himself to chanting the Nembutsu. Moreover, he had constructed an Amida hall and dedicated his lands in offering to Amida Buddha. He was also afraid of how the steward p.530of the area6 might react, and so he did not come forward and take faith in the Lotus Sutra. From his point of view, this was probably the most reasonable course to take. But at the same time, he will without doubt fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. I had thought, for example, that, even if I were to send him a copy of the Lotus Sutra, he would not be willing to abandon the practice of the Nembutsu out of his fear of worldly opinion, and so it would be like combining water with fire. There was no doubt that the flood of his slander of the Law would extinguish the small flame of his faith in the Lotus Sutra. And if he were to fall into hell, I, Nichiren, would in turn be to blame. Thus, while asking myself anxiously again and again what ought to be done, I have so far not sent him a copy of the Lotus Sutra." - Letter to the Lay Priest Ichinosawa

"I-lung said, “It was my hand that wrote the titles. How could you have been saved? Moreover, I did not write them (the titles of the Lotus Sutra) with sincerity. How could it possibly have helped you?” His father replied: “How ignorant you are! Your hand is my hand, and your body is my body. The characters you write are the characters I write. Although you had no faith in your heart, you nevertheless wrote the titles with your hand. Therefore, I have already been saved. Think of a child who sets fire to something and, without the least intention of doing so, causes it to be burned. The same holds true with the Lotus Sutra. If one professes faith in it, one will surely become a Buddha, even though one may not expect it in the least. Now that you understand this principle, never slander the Lotus Sutra. Since we are among the laity, however, we are in a better position to repent of our past slanderous words, no matter how grave they may have been.” Wu-lung and I-lung

"At present the entire body of the Honorable Abutsu is composed of the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and space. These five elements are also the five characters of the daimoku...." - On the Treasure Tower

"One may ask why the results of these vows should be so long in appearing. And yet, though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rise in the west, it could never happen that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered. If the bodhisattvas, the human and heavenly beings, the eight kinds of nonhuman beings, the two sages, the two heavenly deities, and the ten demon daughters would by some unlikely chance fail to appear and protect the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, then above them they would be showing disdain for Shakyamuni and the other Buddhas, and below they would be guilty of deceiving the beings of the nine realms.

It makes no difference if the practitioner himself is lacking in worth, defective in wisdom, impure in his person, and lacking in virtue derived from observing the precepts. So long as he chants Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, they will invariably protect him. One does not throw away gold because the bag that holds it is dirty; one does not ignore the sandalwood trees because of the foul odor of the eranda trees around them; and one does not refuse to gather lotuses because the pond in the valley where they grow is not clean. If they ignore the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, they will be going against their vow." - On Prayer

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