Securing the Peace of the Realm through the
The 16th day of the seventh month of the first year of Bun.nō , at 39 years of age
Once a passing guest [who, in this discourse, represents the majority who have little notion of what the Buddha teachings really are and, at the same time, represents the supreme ruler of Japan at the time of Nichiren] came by, and said with indignant regret to his host: From the last few years up to the present-day, the weather has swung from one thing to another, and just as nasty things are happening on the ground, such as hunger, starvation, and contagious diseases that affect everything under the sky and spread over the breadth of the land. Oxen and horses drop down dead in the alleyways, and their skulls and bones litter the roads. More than half of the fellows of humankind have been called away by death. I daresay that there is not a single person from any family that is not in mourning.
In the meantime, some people concentrate their faith on the phrase in Zendō’s work, In Praise of the Ship that Carries All, which says, “The sharp sword of reciting the name of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha) cuts off all troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha), karma, and bitterness”. So they go chanting the name of this Lord of the Immaculate Terrain in the West, whereas others depend on the phrase from the vow of the Tathāgata Master of Healing (Yakushi) and recite the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Immaculate Lapis Lazuli Terrain in the eastern direction.
Then there are other people who revere the words of the sentence that embraces Utterness, from the Chapter on the Bodhisattva Sovereign Medicine (Yaku’ ō, Bhaishajya-rāja) in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), which is a prayer of the Tendai School, and reads, “This sutra is the good medicine for all the illnesses of the world of humankind. Any who hear this sutra will have their ailments eradicated, and there will be neither old age nor death.” Or instead they hold faith in the Tendai prayer from the Sutra on the Wisdom that Ferries Sentient Beings to the Shores of Nirvana, that deals with the benevolent king who protects his realm, which says, ‘If one is to read aloud and praise the texts of the wisdom that ferries sentient beings over the sea of living and dying to the shores of nirvana, then the seven hardships will be extinguished and the seven happinesses will arise. The people will be happily at peace, and the imperial sovereign will be filled with joy.” Then ceremonies are arranged, in which a hundred monks read out loud the Sutra on the Benevolent King.
There are also some who carry out the rite of exorcism of the esoteric and secret Shingon teaching, in which five vessels of water are in turn sprinkled onto the heads of the participants. Others, of the Zen School, sit in perfect absorption into the one object of meditation, which is to perceive all existence as the emptiness of relativity that in itself is only mind and as unblemished as the full moon.
Then there are people who write out and paste on their doorways the names of the seven kinds of evil spirit that are mentioned in the Kyaku.onshin Jukyō, which is a sutra on mantras to exorcise disease, so that these demons do not force their way into people’s houses. Again, there are other people who paint images of the five all-powerful bodhisattvas from the Sutra on the Benevolent King and stick them on the doors of where they live.
On the other hand, there are people who worship the Shinto gods of the heavens and the deities of the earth. They also organise ceremonies at the four northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest corners, and the four boundaries of the capital [Kamakura], where the deity who eliminates epidemics and the deity of medicine are enshrined. Also, the sovereign and all those who govern the realm take pity on the common people, and make sure that the existing government is benevolent and upright.
Nevertheless, no matter to whatever extreme we sincerely endeavour to put things right, plague and starvation still pursue their inflamed course forward. Homeless people on the street and vagrants overwhelm the eyes. The dead are such a common sight that those who are stretched out and piled on top of each other look like observation platforms, or when they are laid out side by side, they give the impression of being planks on a bridge.
On careful consideration, we see that the sun and moon follow their regular course and that the spacing between the lines, upon which the jewels of the five planets are placed, is quite normal. The three treasures of the Buddha, consisting of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the clerical community (sō, sangha), are still here in the world. Again, at the time of the fifty-first Emperor Heizei (r. 806-809 CE), there was the oracular vow from the Bodhisattva Hachiman, who swore to safeguard a hundred generations of sovereigns, but we have not yet come as far as the hundredth monarch!
Then why is it the world has fallen into decline so soon? For what reason have the laws of the world become obsolete? To what do we owe these calamities? What is the error that brought them about?
The host replied: On my own I have pondered over what is happening, and I am angry because of my ominous feelings, but I would like to talk about it. Now that you have come to visit me, let us gripe about these things together and see where this conversation leads us.
When people leave home in order to enter upon the path of the Buddha they expect by means of the correct Dharma, to open up their inherent Buddha nature. But now even resorting to the Shinto gods is useless. There is not a sign of the majestic virtues of the Buddhas, such as the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), the Tathāgata of Healing (Yakushi Nyorai), or the Tathāgata of Universal Sunlight (Dai Nichi Nyorai).
When I take in the reality of the present age in detail, many people, due to their unknowingness, have doubts about their existences to come in the hereafter. As a result, looking up to the sky all around and above them, they swallow their resentment. Then they look downwards to the ground on all four sides and sink into deep apprehension. With my modestly restrained vision, rather like trying to see things through a narrow tube, I have read a number of the sutric texts, in search of an answer.
The people of the world today have turned their backs on what is right and committed themselves to evil. On this account, the spirits of good have abandoned the nation. The persons who are whole and saintly have gone away and are not coming back. Instead, their places have been taken by demons and hateful spirits who bring about disasters and calamities. I do have to say this, and I cannot help being afraid.
The guest said: I am not the only one who is distressed by the disasters that are happening everywhere under the sky and the calamities that occur throughout the realm. The whole populace deplores them. Now that I have entered the refined surroundings of your house, I hear, for the first time, such an illuminating discourse. From which sutra do you get the concept that when the spirits of good and the people, who are sage-like and wise leave the realm, then disasters and calamities come about? I would like to hear your evidence for this.
The host replied: Since the number of these sutras is enormous, there is amply broad material for testimony. It says, in the Sutra on the Golden Illuminating Light, “At that time, the four deva kings that are the Guardians of the World put the palms of their hands together, and said to the Buddha, ‘World Honoured One, if there is a sovereign who is humankind, who though his kingdom and terrain are in possession of this sutra, and as yet has not had it propagated, then the sovereign, by putting it aside, separates himself from it and takes no pleasure in hearing its teaching. Neither does he make offerings to it, nor does he solemnly revere it, nor does he express his admiration for it. Even though he sees the monks, nuns, and both the lay men and women who follow the correct Dharma holding to this sutra, this sovereign is incapable of seriously venerating or making offerings to it.
As a result we, Taishaku (Indra) and the four deva kings with our respective retinues that are made up of countless deva (ten), will depart and, on account of this sovereign’s refusal to listen to the utterness of this profound Dharma as well as turning his back on this elixir of immortality, the flow of the correct Dharma in his realm will become lost, and his aura of majesty and authority will come to nothing. Therefore, among the people in his kingdom, denizens of hell, people who act like hungry demons, and others who are almost animals or domineering bullies, will be on the increase. Those persons with human values and those of the deva (ten) will dwindle away through falling into the troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha) of the cycles of living and dying, without having any interest in opening up their inherent Buddha nature.
“‘World Honoured One, when we, the four deva kings, all our retinues, as well as the army of yasha (yaksha) that are the protective demons, see that the sovereign does not propagate this correct Dharma, we shall then abandon this realm and terrain, since we have no more mind to go on protecting it. It is not only we who will abandon this sovereign, but all the countless spirits of good, who have protected and kept this realm safe. All of them everywhere will abandon it and just go away.
“‘When all the deva (ten) and spirits of good have departed, various kinds of disasters and calamities will indeed occur in this realm, and its prestige will be lost. Out of the whole of the population, there will be nobody whose mind is healthily directed towards good. There will be nothing but restraint and being hindered, hurting and killing, anger and quarrels. People will slander each other and twist their words to curry another’s favour. Their crookedness will involve even those who have done nothing wrong. Plague and disease run through the realm and its terrains. Comets will often appear in the sky, and two suns will shine side by side. Also dust storms and eclipses will blot out the sun and moon, with unusual frequency. There will be black and white arcs across the sky, forewarning some imminent evil. There will be falling stars and the earth will tremble; voices will come from inside the wells. There will be cloudbursts of rain and destructive typhoons that come out of season. The people will come up against famine and starvation, because the seedlings do not grow, and other produce cannot mature or become ripe. Adding to the already bitter troubles that burden the populace, hard faced-robbers from other regions attack and pillage the realm, so that there is nowhere where people can live in safety.’”
In the Sutra on the Great Assembly of Bodhisattvas, it says, “When the Dharma of the Buddha really becomes obscured and fades away, then ordinary people and even monks will let their beards, hair, and fingernails grow long. Also the laws of society will be forgotten and fall into disuse. At that time, extremely loud noises will be heard in the sky, making the earth shudder. Everything everywhere will go round and round, like the wheel of a water-mill. The walls of cities will crumble and fall down and, at the same time the houses and dwellings will split apart and collapse. The curative qualities that are inherent in the roots, branches, leaves, petals, or fruit from the plants and trees in the woods will come to an end. With the exception of the six deva realms, that are between the realms of the Bonten (Brahma deva) and the earth, the seven different kinds of taste [sweet, pungent, sour, bitter, salty, acrid and insipid], as well as the three pure energies that give life [which are i) the life force of the earth to produce vegetation, ii) the life-giving force of the Buddha Dharma and the laws of humankind and iii) the life-giving force of humanity and society] will all dwindle and decline so much so that nothing will remain.
“When all these things happen, there will be no efficacy in all the sane discourses that lead to the understanding of and liberation from living and dying. The flowers and fruits that grow in the earth will become scarce, and their flavours will become unpleasant. All the wells, streams and ponds will become parched and dried up. Everywhere all the ground will become salty, brackish, and furrowed, and cracks will open up between the hillocks. All the mountains will be scorched and set ablaze, and the dragons of the skies will not send down rain. The seedlings, crops, and trees will shrivel and die; everything that is alive will wither and die, no new vegetation will ever grow again. Due to whirlwinds caused by the heat, dust will rain down and it will get so dark that the brightness of the sun and moon will be blotted out.
“In all the four directions, the water will evaporate, and there will be drought. Time and time again, evil omens will make their appearance. The ten paths of bad karma, as well as covetousness and indulging in it, and that inborn angry hatred and the stupidity of wanting to remain ignorant, all these defects will be on the increase. [The ten paths are the three physical evils of i) taking life, ii) stealing, and iii) wrongful sexual relations; the four evils of speech i. which are telling lies that are really fantasies, ii. engaging in duplicity, iii. deceiving, and iv) defaming; the three evils of mind – i. greed, ii. anger, and iii. stupidity.] Sentient beings, on looking at their fathers and mothers, will think no more of them than do the hornless river deer. The lifespan, the physical strength of sentient beings, as well as their feeling to be able to enjoy life with dignity, will become disconnected from the normal pleasures of humankind, and the deva (ten) and all sentient beings everywhere will lapse into the courses of wrongdoing.
“Consequently, the karma of wrongdoing of the bad sovereign and the dissolute monks will break down and destroy the correct Dharma of the Buddha, thus handicapping and diminishing the paths of people being reborn among humankind or in the realms of the deva (ten). Then all the deva (ten) and spirits of good, who would normally have compassion for and sympathize with the sentient beings who are subjects of this king, will abandon this filthily evil country and look towards other places to go.”
In the Sutra on the Benevolent King, it says, “When the realm becomes disorganised, it is due to the demons and the archetypal spirits that are first in disorder. The reason for the demons and spirits being out of control is because the populace has become anarchical. Marauders come into the realm and lay it waste; the ordinary people are faced with the despair of annihilation. The ministers, the ruling class, the prince that is heir to the throne, and princes of royal blood all squabble with each other over what is right and wrong. There are dreadful abnormal things happening in the sky and on the ground. The twenty-eight constellations [of ancient Chinese astronomy], the paths of stars as well as those of the sun and the moon, are all out of time and have lost their proper order. Also, there are many people who have become rebels.”
Then it goes on to say, “I am now, with the five kinds of vision [that of i. humankind, ii. the deva (ten), iii. wisdom of the individual vehicle, iv. vision of the bodhisattvas, and v. that of Buddhas], clearly able to see the past, present, and future. As for all the sovereigns of nations, they all became emperors, kings or rulers, because they attended on five hundred Buddhas in former existences. It is on account of this meritorious virtue that all the men who are sage-like and all those who have attained the supreme rewards of the individual vehicle (arhat) strive to do what is beneficial for the rulers of the countries where they were born. But if there is a time when the blessedness of the rulers comes to an end, all the sage-like men will abandon such a sovereign and depart. If the men that are sage-like do depart, then the seven calamities are certain to come about.”
[These seven calamities are i. the sun and moon neither appearing at the right time nor being on course, ii. the constellations appearing in the wrong order; iii. everywhere there are conflagrations of different sorts, iv. heavy rainfall and floods, v. disasters caused by great winds, vi. heaven and earth rising and falling, vii. marauders attacking from all directions.]
It says, in the Sutra on the Master of Healing, “If the correct Dharma is slandered in the realms and domains of anointed kings and the ruling warrior caste (kshatriya), calamities will occur, such as contagious diseases among the populace, incursive aggressions from other countries, rebellion and treachery within their own domains, ominous changes in the stars and constellations, eclipses of the sun and moon or their radiance suddenly becoming less bright, winds and downpours out of the proper season, and also no rain during the period of the monsoon.”
In the Sutra on the Benevolent King, the Buddha says to the Sovereign Hashinoku (Prasenajit): “Great King, the places where people have been converted to my teaching now amount to a hundred billion worlds of Mount Sumeru. [These Mount Sumerus are the central mountains of each world system. At the top is the heaven of Taishaku (Indra) and below are the four deva kings. Around this central mountain are eight circles of mountains, and between them are eight seas. Each world system has its own sun and moon]. Again, each Mount Sumeru has, under its skies, four continents. In the southern continent (Ichi.enbudai, Jambudvîpa), which is the world of humankind, there are sixteen great nations, five hundred medium-sized nations, and ten thousand smaller nations.
“In these realms and domains, there are seven calamities to be feared. Therefore, all the sovereigns of these nations know that when these calamities occur, they are real dangers. In fact, what are these calamities?
“It is when the sun and the moon move off their regular paths. The seasons come in the wrong order. When there appears a sun that is red throughout the whole day, or a sun that appears to be black, or when there are one, two, three, four, or five suns appearing at the same time. When there is an eclipse of the sun without a corona, or when the sun appears in either one, two, three, four, or five layers, all of these are counted as the first calamity.
“When the twenty-eight constellations are not on their regular courses, also when the Golden Stars, the Yard Broom Shaped Stars, the Wheel Stars, the Demon Star, the Fire Star, the Water Star, the Wind Stars, the Ladle Shaped Stars, both the Northern and Southern Dippers, all the stars that astrologically govern the Lord of the Realm, the three royal aides and the hundred civil and military officials, appear in a different way from what they usually do, then all of this constitutes the second calamity.
“Then we come to those huge conflagrations that rage throughout the realm and burn tens of thousands of people to death. Either these fires are caused by demons, or their origins are unknown, or they are caused by dragons or falling thunderbolts. There are fires caused by the deva (ten), or something from the sky. Other fires are caused by the mountain spirits who induce volcanoes to erupt. Then there are those fires that are caused by the wilfulness or the negligence of humankind. There are raging fires that spontaneously break out in the forests. Also there are fires that are set alight by marauders and arsonists. Such strange and uncanny events are taken to be the third calamity.
“When enormous floods wash away and drown the people, when the seasons come in the opposite order with monsoon rains in wintertime and snowfalls in the summer, when in winter there are lightning flashes and the deafening booms of noisy thunder, also when there are ice, frost, and hailstorms in June, or when it pours down red water, black water, or a rain that is bluish green, when mountains of earth and stone come precipitating down, or when it rains sand, pebbles and stones, when the course of the rivers flow backwards, when mountains are afloat and river boulders are swept away, when such peculiar seasons come about, then it is the fourth of the seven catastrophes.
“When huge winds blow many people to their deaths, and the realm, its domains, its mountains, its rivers, its trees and shrubs are also at the same time blown into annihilation, then when typhoons rage out of season and black winds, red winds, winds that blow bluish green, winds that whirl towards the sky, winds that rake the earth, fiery hot winds, and winds that are sopping wet – when such out of the ordinary winds occur, then it is the fifth calamity.
“When the heavens over the earth, on which the realm and its domains stand, become so overbearingly hot, so that air feels like rising flames, then all the vegetation shrivels up, and the five staple grains fail to grow, the soil on the ground is scorched red hot, and the people can no longer exist. When such monstrosities occur, it means that the sixth calamity has come.
“Finally, when enemies emerge from the four quarters to attack and invade the realm, there are also traitorous rebels causing troubles within it. There will then be criminals who will add to the wretchedness of the people, through causing disasters of fire, water, wind, as well as other demoniacal acts. The people are subjected to madness and confusion, and the clash of arms and plunder will break out everywhere. When tragedies of this kind occur, it is the seventh calamity.”
It says in the Sutra on the Great Assembly of Bodhisattvas: “Suppose there were a sovereign of a realm, who through countless lifetimes had always given alms as unsullied charity, observed the precepts, and acted with the wisdom and discernment of the Buddha teaching. One day, this sovereign became aware that the correct Dharma was dwindling away, but he just stood by and did nothing to support or protect it. In this way, all the uncountable good seeds that he had planted during numerous lives would be completely destroyed and lost forever. His kingdom would become a place where the three unfortunate circumstances would come about. The first of these misfortunes is the rising prices of staple grains, the second is war, and the third is contagious disease.
“All the spirits of good everywhere in this realm will reject it and go somewhere else. Then, when this sovereign tries to instruct or give orders, no one will follow or obey him. There will be continual aggressions and other provocations from neighbouring states. Fierce fires are likely to break out for no apparent reason. There will be vicious winds, and enormous downpours of rain and floods will increase, so that the people are blown about by storms and washed away by floods. The paternal and maternal relatives of the monarch will plot together to bring about his downfall. After this, the sovereign will have a severe illness and, when his lifespan has come to its end, he will be reborn in one of the larger hells. Likewise, a similar destiny will await the consort of the sovereign, the princes, the ministers of state, the lords of the cities, the military leaders, the protectors of the regions, and the government officials.”
The implications of these quotations from the Sutra on the Golden Illuminating Light, the Sutra on the Great Assembly of Bodhisattvas, the Sutra on the Benevolent King, and the Sutra on the Tathāgata Master of Healing are very clear indeed. Not one person in ten thousand could have doubts about them.
However, there are those monks, whose blindness and bewilderment has made them hold faith in distorting and incomplete doctrines such as the Nembutsu teaching, who are incapable of discerning what the correct teaching really is. Because of the influence that their distorting doctrines have on people of all classes, the people then are inclined to turn away from and abandon all the sutras that are not of the Nembutsu School and have lost any resolve to protect the correct Dharma. Consequently, all the spirits of good and the people who are sage-like will abandon the realm and leave the places where they used to dwell. As a result, evil demons and people who follow distorting and incomplete teachings bring about disasters and calamities on the people.
The guest flushed angrily, and said: The Emperor Kō Mei (r. 57-75 CE) of the latter Kan (Han) dynasty, who revealed the doctrine, saw a golden personage in a dream. When the emperor had realised that this person was the Buddha, he had the Buddha teaching brought to China on the backs of white horses. In Japan, after Prince Shōtoku had subjugated the anti-Buddhist rebellion of Mononobe no Moriya, he then set about building stupas and temples throughout the land for the prosperity of the Buddha teaching. From that time onwards, from the single person of the emperor down to the tens of thousands of ordinary people, Buddha images have been venerated and devotion has been paid to the sutric texts.
Starting with the Enryakuji Temple on Mount Hiei, the Onjōji, and Eastern Temples in Nara the southern capital, then all over the country surrounded by the four seas, including the five home provinces and the seven districts that are controlled directly by the emperor, the sutras and teachings of the Buddha are like the mesh of stars arrayed across the sky, and temples and monasteries are like the clouds draped over our heads. The wise monks who adhere to the tradition of Sharihotsu (Shariputra) continue their practice of contemplation, meditating on the Dharma, and those who hold to the direction of Kakuroku (Haklenayashas) devote themselves to the doctrinal teachings.
How can anyone say that the Buddha teaching of a lifetime has become petty and cramped, or that the three treasures of the Buddha, Dharma, and the clerical community (sō, sangha) have fallen into decline? If you have evidence to support what you say, I would like to hear your reasoning and all the details.
The host said reprovingly to his guest: The tiled roofs of temples stand in row upon row, and the eaves of the sutra storehouses are lined up one after another. Monks are as numerous as bamboo plants or reeds, and members of the religious community (sō, sangha) are as common as rice or hemp seedlings. What is more, all these monks and temples have been highly regarded year after year since ancient times, and again each day they are venerated and honoured anew.
Nevertheless, teachers of the Dharma have become flatterers of power and wealth who deviously confuse the people about what ethics and human relationships ought to be. The sovereign and his ministers lack the depth of understanding to be able to distinguish between what is correct and what is distorting and incomplete.
In the Sutra on the Benevolent King, it says, “There are many bad monks, many of whom seek worldly fame for their own profit. Now and then, they appear before the sovereign, the heir apparent, and other princes. These monks preach their own variety of the Buddha Dharma that is contrary to the correct teaching; in turn, these sermons become the cause and complimentary causes for the ruin of the state. The sovereign indiscriminately listens to these teachings, which are fabricated, nonsensical legislation that have nothing to do with the Buddha precepts. These are the causes and circumstances that destroy the Buddha teaching and bring about the collapse of the realm.”
Again, we have, in the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, “Bodhisattvas, do not let mad elephants in your mind terrify you. What ought to scare your thoughts is an evil acquaintance. Even though you may be killed by a mad elephant, it will not be as bad as falling into one of these evil paths [of the hells, hungry demons, or the realm of animality]. If you are killed on account of an evil friend, then you are most likely to fall down into one of these unfortunate paths.”
In the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), we have the following: “The monks in that age when things are bad will, through their incomplete and distorted insight, become devious flatterers. They will say they have reached enlightenment when they have attained nothing of the sort, and their minds will be full of conceit and pride. There will also be people wearing the three regulation garments of monks, living like hermits who have forsaken the world. They will say that they are the ones who practise the correct path. Yet, at the same time, they will hold ordinary people in contempt. There will also be other monks who, with an eye for their own nourishment and personal gain, will expound the Dharma to the laity and be respected and venerated by society, as though they had attained the supreme reward of the individual vehicle (arhat), which includes the six reaches of the mind [i.e., i) the sight of a deva (ten), ii) the hearing of a deva (ten), iii) the ability to penetrate the minds of other people, iv) to be able to understand the inherent karma of sentient beings, v) to be able to manifest oneself according to the propensities of sentient beings as well as being able to mentally travel elsewhere, and vi) the ability to cut off all troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha)].”
This text then continues, until, “These evil monks will always, in some way or another, be present among the people, seeking to denigrate those who hold to the correct Dharma. They will also turn to the rulers of nations, great ministers, Brahmans, lay supporters of the Buddha teaching, and also other monks, in order to vilify and make evil remarks about those who follow the correct way, by saying that such persons who do follow the correct Buddha path have distorting and unwholesome views that are outside the Buddha Dharma.
“Throughout the long filthy lapse of time that is the degenerate age, there will be many different things to be afraid of. There will be evil demons who will take possession of other persons, in order to slander and besmirch and humiliate those who follow the correct Dharma. Bad monks of this turgid age, who do not understand the expedient means of the Buddha teaching or the Buddha Dharma, will hurl foul language at those who are on the correct path, as well as having them marginalised or banished time and time again.”
In the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, it says: “After my passing over into extinction, when uncountable hundreds of years have gone by, those who hold to the fourfold path of sage-like persons – who (i) rely on the Dharma and not on the person who teaches it, (ii) who rely on the significance and not on the wording, (iii) who rely on wisdom and not on knowledge, and (iv) who rely on the sutra of the ultimate implication and not on the sutras whose significance is incomplete – all those persons everywhere will have passed over into complete extinction. After the correct phase of the Dharma has ended and the formal phase of superficial appearances has already begun, there will be monks who give the impression that they are holding to the precepts, but they will be hardly reading or reciting the sutras at all. They will be greedy and epicurean about the food that nourishes and fattens their bodies.
“Although they may wear the robes of a monk, they will have the sharp eye of a huntsman in seeking out those who give alms, just as a cat stalks a mouse. These monks are forever dwelling upon the same litany, saying that they have attained the supreme reward of the individual vehicle (arhat). Outwardly they will appear to be wise and good but inwardly they will be consumed with greed and jealousy. When they are asked to say something about the Dharma, they will act dumb, like the Brahmins who have made the vow of silence. They may appear to be monks who have diligently brought their minds and passions to quietude, but these are only appearances. In actual fact, they are not monks at all. Also, by being completely gobbled up by their own incomplete and misguided ways of seeing things, they revile and slander the correct Dharma.”
If we look at the world around us, as it is seen according to these sutric references, then indeed the situation is just as it has been described. If we do not admonish these counteractive and distorting monks, how can anything be done to put things correctly?
The guest, getting more outraged than ever, said: An enlightened sovereign models his government according to the principles of heaven and earth. The sage-like man (shōnin), through his capacity to see into what is right or wrong, is able to set the world in order. As for the monks in the world, people throughout the land take refuge in them and have faith in them. If they were such evil monks, an enlightened sovereign would not put his trust in them. Also, if these monks were not saintly, virtuous people with understanding, people would not look up to them. Now, since people of virtue and wisdom do profoundly revere these monks, they must be, as you already know, religious dignitaries of exceptional virtue and wisdom.
How can you severely slander them, by throwing up such silly nonsense? To whom are you referring, when you speak about monks being degenerate? I would like to hear what you really mean.
The host said: When the Emperor Go-Toba (r. 1184-1198 CE) was on the throne, there was a monk called Hōnen who compiled The Only Choice is the Nembutsu School, which is the Original Vow of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), a work that brought so much bewilderment to sentient beings everywhere throughout the ten directions. The text of The Only Choicequotes the Teacher of Contemplation, Dōshaku (Dao Chao) of the Tō (Tang) dynasty, as saying, “He makes a distinction between the two gateways to enlightenment, one being the path that is sage-like [individuating and non-schizophrenic], and the other being the immaculate terrain. People should abandon the path that is sage-like and take the correct step of putting their faith in the immaculate terrain. To begin with, the path that is sage-like is made up of two gateways to enlightenment, the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna) and the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna).”
The text continues, until, “On careful consideration, the path that is sage-like also includes the esoteric teachings, both the provisional and the real universal vehicles, as well as the Dharma Flower. If that is so, then all the eight schools of the present-day – Shingon, Zen, Tendai, Kegon, Sanron, Hossō, Jiron, and Sharon – are also the path that is sage-like and should be set aside.
“The Teacher of the Dharma, Donran (Tan Luan, 476-542 CE), in his Annotations on Being Reborn in the Immaculate Terrain,expressed these concepts in the following manner, ‘On carefully reading The Options to be made by Bodhisattvas at the Tenth Stage of Abiding in the Faith by the Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna (Ryūju), it suggests that there are two sorts of practise for those bodhisattvas who aspire to the state where there is no retrogression. One is the difficult path; the second is the easier path.’ Out of these two paths, the one that is difficult to practise is the one that is sage-like. The other that is the easier practise is the gateway to enlightenment through the immaculate terrain. First those that wish to study the practise of the immaculate terrain must understand this point. Even though they may have studied the gateway to enlightenment of the path that is sage-like, but if they are determined to practise this gateway to enlightenment through the immaculate terrain, they must necessarily renounce the path that is sage-like and give their complete trust to that of the immaculate terrain.”
Again Hōnen says, “The Chinese monk Zendō (Shan Dao 618-681 CE), in his Devout Praise of being Reborn in the Immaculate Terrain, establishes that there are two kinds of practise, the Nembutsu that is the correct one, and the other, a miscellany that is not right. This miscellany of practises should be discarded and one should devote oneself to the correct practise of the Nembutsu. Essentially, with regard to the miscellany of practises of reading and reciting sutras, apart from the Sutra on Contemplating the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha) and the other two sutras of the immaculate terrain, the Sutra on the Buddha of Boundless Life (Amitāyus), and The Buddha Expounds the Sutra on Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), all other reading, reciting, or holding to any universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), or exoteric or esoteric sutra anywhere, is to be defined as the practise of reading and reciting sutras wrongly. With regard to the third practise of wrongful worship, with the sole exception of devoutly worshipping the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), all the veneration and devout worship of all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deva (ten) that are elsewhere or amongst humankind, are to be regarded as practises of devout worship that are wrong. With regard to this passage, I [Hōnen] tell myself that I must definitely renounce the medley of wrongful teachings and cultivate the practises of the Nembutsu, to the exclusion of all others. Therefore, should one not practise the Nembutsu teachings, which specify that, out of a hundred practitioners, a hundred will be reborn in the Heaven of Ultimate Bliss of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), instead of hanging on to the miscellany of disciplines and practices that cannot enlighten one person in a thousand? Fellow practitioners, you should ponder this very carefully.”
Hōnen goes on to say, “In the inventory of the sutras selected for the Jōgen Treasury, it starts with the six hundred fascicles of the Universal Wisdom that Carries Beings over to the Shores of Nirvana and ends with the Sutra of the Eternal Existence of the Dharma, including all the exoteric and esoteric sutras of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), which together amount to six hundred thirty volumes that are made up of two thousand eight hundred eighty-three fascicles. All of these texts must be substituted by the recitation of the single phrase of the universal vehicle (Namu Amida Butsu).”
Furthermore, Hōnen says, “Indeed you should realise that, before the Buddha taught the Dharma in accordance with the propensities of his listeners, he propounded for the time being the two gateways to enlightenment of practises for minds that were ordered by contemplation and the minds of ordinary people, who had not the discipline of contemplation. Later, when the Buddha taught from the standpoint of his own enlightenment, he then stopped teaching these two gateways. But the Buddha teaching, having once been made known, can never be taken back. This is the single gateway to enlightenment of bearing in mind the doctrine of the Nembutsu.”
Again Hōnen states, “The text that says practitioners of the Nembutsu School must be equipped with the three states of mind that are the assured ways of reaching the immaculate terrain [i) the perfect sincerity to do so, ii) the profound resolve to reach it, and iii) the decision to turn one’s merit over to all sentient beings] is to be found in the Sutra on Contemplating the Buddha of Boundless Life. Zendō also says, in his commentary on the same sutra, ‘The question is asked. If a person’s understanding and practise are different from the Nembutsu teachings, would he not be a perverse follower of the miscellany of other teachings, and, how can we prevent him from creating difficulties through his erroneous, divergent views?’ Evil people like this, who have divergent understanding and different practises, are similar to the gangs of thugs who call back travellers that have set out on one part or two parts of their journey to the immaculate terrain. What I mean to say is that all the divergent understandings, various studies, and distinct points of view, which are referred to in these passages, all point to the gateways of the path that is sage-like.”
Finally, in the text where Hōnen sums up his point of view, he says, “For those who wish to be quickly released from the cycles of living and dying, there are the two prevailing dharmas of the correct Dharma of the immaculate terrain and the other path that is sage-like. They should put the gateway to the Dharma of the path that is sage-like aside and enter through the Dharma gateway of the immaculate terrain. For any who wish to pass through the gateway to the Dharma of the immaculate terrain, they should abandon all the miscellaneous practises, and take refuge in the immaculate terrain.”
On looking at these passages more closely, we see that Hōnen, through making misrepresentations from Donran, Dōshaku, and Zendō, establishes classifications, such as the path that is sage-like, the immaculate terrain, a practise that is difficult, and a practise that is easier. He then bunches together all the six hundred thirty-seven volumes, which comprise two thousand eighty-three fascicles, which constitute a lifetime of Buddha teaching of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna).
This also includes the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), the Tantric teachings of the Shingon School, which all go under the label of the miscellaneous teachings, the practises that are difficult to carry out, together with all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deva (ten) of the heavenly and human realms, which Hōnen then incites people to either throw them all away, close them, put them aside, or abandon them entirely. Nearly everybody has been led into following what is not true, on account of these injunctions.
In addition to this, he points to the monks that are sage-like, from the three countries of India, China, and Japan, along with all the disciples of the Buddha teaching, and calls them a gang of thugs who are obstructing the practise and cultivation of the Nembutsu doctrine. Thus he makes people insult and speak ill of these sage-like personages.
To be a little more precise, the three sutras of the Nembutsu School [i) The Sutra on the Adornments of the Immaculate Terrain, ii) The Sutra on the Buddha of Boundless Life, and iii) The Sutra on the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha)] contradict the original vow of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha) to save all beings, by saying that, “through taking refuge in and reciting the name of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), everybody can be reborn in the immaculate terrain of ultimate bliss, except those who have committed the five deadly sins [of i. killing one’s father, ii. killing one’s mother, iii. killing an arhat, iv. shedding the blood of a Buddha, and v. destroying the harmony of the religious community (sō, sangha)], or those who slander the correct Dharma.”
From a more distant standpoint, the Nembutsu School seems to be misguided over the text of Shākyamuni’s severe warning in the Second Chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), which is the very essence of the five periods [i. the Flower Garland, ii. the doctrine of the individual vehicle, iii. the equally broad doctrine (hōdō, vaipulya), iv. the wisdom (hannya, prajña) teachings, and v. the period of the Dharma Flower and Nirvana sutras] which constitute a lifetime of the Buddha’s instruction. This passage says, “If a person does not hold faith in this Sutra and destructively reviles it”, and the text then continues, until, “at the end of this person’s life he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering”.
Now that we have reached the present age that is the final era of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō), there is nobody around who is supremely virtuous, wise, and is a person that is sage-like. Practically all the people have been led astray by the distorting and incomplete doctrine of Hōnen, so that each one has arrived at his own dark crossroad, because the direct path to become a Buddha has been forgotten.
It is so sad that nobody can shake the people out of their deluded religious fantasies, and how painful it is to see that more and more people attach themselves to distorting and incomplete faiths. From the sovereign down to the myriads of ordinary people, everybody thinks that there are no other sutras outside the three volumes that are used by the School of the Immaculate Terrain. As for the Buddha, everyone thinks there can be no other than the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), with his two attendant bodhisattvas, the Bodhisattva Kanzeon, and the Bodhisattva Seishi, which make up the trinity that is venerated by the School of the Immaculate Terrain.
Formerly, there were monks like Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi), Gishin, Jikaku, and Chishō, who either crossed over ten thousand leagues of ocean in order to find the teachings that are sage-like, or who travelled all around the mountains and rivers of Japan, searching for venerated Buddha images so that they might acquire them. In order that they might be enshrined, they built temples on the tops of high places, or else they established hermitages at the bottom of deep valleys, where these representations of holiness could be honoured with faith.
Both the Buddhas, Shākyamuni who is enshrined in the western pagoda of the Enryakuji Temple on Mount Hiei, along with the Tathāgata Master of Healing (Yakushi) who is placed in the Central Hall of the eastern pagoda of the same temple, radiated their majestic light from the living sum total of the whole of the past onwards into the ages to come. Also the Bodhisattva Receptacle of the Empty Space of Happiness and Wisdom (Kokūzō), enshrined in the Hannyadani Temple, and the Bodhisattva Jizō [who was entrusted by Shākyamuni to save people], installed in the Kaishindani Temple, were both an enormous benefit that reached beyond our present existence to our lives in the hereafter. The reason for this was that the rulers of the nation made the contribution of either one village or one county, in order to keep the lamps before the Buddha images burning, whereas the lords of the manors made offerings of fields and rice paddies, so as to help the maintenance of temples and monasteries.
Because of this book, The Only Choice, by Hōnen, Shākyamuni, the Lord of the Teaching for the world we live in, has been forgotten by the people, and all honour has been attributed to the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), the Buddha of the western direction. All of those who had been entrusted with the assignment of the Buddha, for the formal period of the Dharma, have been cast aside, and all the significance of the Tathāgata Master of Healing (Yakushi), has been neglected. All faith and devotion is particularly directed towards the four fascicles of the three volumes that make up the sutras of the School of the Immaculate Terrain, to the detriment of Shākyamuni’s lifetime of teachings that are sage-like, which have ended up as though they were nothing at all.
Consequently, if the places of worship are not dedicated to the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), people will not make offerings to the Buddha images enshrined inside them. If there are no monks who recite the Nembutsu (Namu Amida Butsu), any thought of making donations to temples is soon forgotten. Hence the halls of the Buddha are in a tumble-down state, their roofs are covered with so much moss that they look like pine trees; since hardly any monks live there, no smoke rises from between the tiles. The monks’ living quarters are also in a state of dilapidation, with their courtyards thick with weeds that are sodden, soggy with the wettest of dews.
Even though things have come to this pass, there seems to be nobody who cares enough about the Dharma to try and protect it, or who would make an effort to restore these temples. Since the monks of the religious community (sō, sangha) have left and are not coming back, the spirits of good who gave them protection have also departed and are unlikely to return. These unhappy events are entirely due to The Only Choice of Hōnen. What is so sad about all this is that, during the past ten years or so, hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of people, due to their demonic association with Hōnen, have been completely led astray, with regard to the Buddha Dharma. Because the people take to a teaching that is no more than a doctrinal sideshow, they forget what the real teaching is.
How can the spirits of good not be enraged? Since the people have abandoned the all-inclusive teachings and favoured a doctrine that is less than complete, how can they not be spooked by evil presences? Instead of offering up myriads of prayers to remedy these calamities, the best thing to do would be to prohibit this Nembutsu teaching that is the sole source of our misfortunes.
This time, on hearing how the host had branded Hōnen as an evil monk and the cause of the present calamities, the expression on the guest’s face became even more agitated, as he said: Because our Original Teacher Shākyamuni expounded the three volumes of the sutras on the immaculate terrain, we have the teacher of the Dharma, Donran, abandoning the three explanatory discourses of Nāgārjuna (Ryūju) and also the discourse of the Bodhisattvas Seshin (Vasubhandu) and Daiba (Kanadeva), so that he could dedicate his entire faith to the teaching of the immaculate terrain. The Master of Contemplation Dōshaku renounced his extensive study and practice of the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana and then wholeheartedly set about propagating the doctrine of Buddha of Boundless Light's (Amida, Amitābha) Heaven of Ultimate Bliss in the western region. The Venerable Abbot Zendō discarded the miscellaneous practises and concentrated on the cultivation of the practise of the immaculate terrain. The Director of Monks Eshin collated the doctrinal essence of all the sutras and proclaimed that they all imply the single practise of the Nembutsu. Indeed such was the manner that these monks fervently venerated the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha) that they were able to bring about the rebirth of countless individuals in the immaculate terrain.
I should also like to point out that the wise Hōnen entered the Tendai Monastery on Mount Hiei, when he was a child. At the age of seventeen, he had read through all the literary works of Tendai (T’ien T’ai), the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, the Textual Explanation of the Dharma Flower (Hokke Mongu), and the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly (Maka Shikan). In addition to this, he had also read all the explanatory works of Myōraku (Miao-lo), Explanatory Notes of the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, Notes on the Textual Explanation of the Dharma Flower, and the Broad Elucidation to Support the Practice of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly. All these works amount to sixty fascicles. At the same time, he had looked into the teachings of the eight schools and had grasped the essential meaning of all of them. Apart from this, he had read through all the sutras and discourses seven times and had made a study of all the general commentaries, critical explanations, and biographies related to the Buddha teaching. His wisdom was equal to the sun and moon, and his virtue surpassed the earlier teachers.
In spite of all this, he was confused over what direction should be taken, in order to be free of the troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha) of mundane existence; also he was unable to comprehend the implications of nirvana. Because of this, Hōnen read all the sutras and discourses he was able to, he deeply considered them in every detail, pondered over them in depth, and deliberated over them in the farthest reaches of his mind. In the end, he put all the sutras aside and exclusively dedicated his practise to the reciting of the Nembutsu.
Furthermore, Hōnen’s decision was confirmed through his seeing Zendō in a dream, which he took to be an answer to a prayer. From then on, Hōnen propagated the teaching of the immaculate terrain throughout the length and breadth of Japan, to friends, relatives, and strangers. Later on, people looked up to Hōnen as the manifestation of the Bodhisattva Seishi [who, in the iconography of the Immaculate Terrain School, stands with the Bodhisattva Kannon on either side of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha)], or he was seen as the reincarnation of Zendō. Irrespective of whether people were of high or low birth, all of them everywhere inclined their heads towards Hōnen in respect; men and women throughout Japan fervently sought after him for his teaching.
Ever since that time, springs and autumns have followed one another; sparkling, hoary winters have accumulated one on top of another. Nevertheless, you say that the causes of our calamities are due to Hōnen, yet you sacrilegiously marginalise the teachings of Shākyamuni, who expounded the Nembutsu doctrine, and you deliberately berate the texts that concern the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha). Why do you assign the origin of the calamities of recent years to the past age of the saintly Hōnen? You do all you can to vilify the former teachers Donran, Dōshaku and Dōzen of the School of the Immaculate Terrain, and, to make matters worse, you heap abuse on Hōnen the sage. From the way you talk and behave, it seems that you are blowing between the hairs on a fur, in order to reveal a cut or flaw in the leather, or knowingly snipping at the pelt with scissors, to see if any blood will come out. From ancient times up to the present, such evil speech has never been heard. It is really frightening and you should be more thoughtful. If you build up the karma of slander, how can you expect to avoid being punished? I am afraid even to sit in front of you. I think I must pick up my staff and take my leave!
The host smiled, so to restrain his guest from leaving, and then went on to say: You know the insects that cut the knotweed [Polygonum] are unaware of its salty, acrid taste; people who spend a long time in lavatories forget their stench. In the same way, after having lived for so many years with a distorting and incomplete Buddha teaching, when you hear the good words of the real truth, you think they are just evil talk. You refer to an individual like Hōnen as being saintly, who slanders the Dharma and turns his back on the real intention of the Buddha. By doubting a correct teacher, you brand him as an evil monk. Your bewilderment is indeed profound, and not knowing what you are about is no shallow matter at all. If you would like to hear how this confusion came about, then we can discuss the sequence of events in detail.
The course of Shākyamuni’s lifetime of expounding the Dharma can be apportioned to the five doctrinal periods of i. the Flower Garland, ii. the doctrinal period of the individual vehicle (Agon, Āgama), iii. the equally broad (hōdō, vaipulya), iv. the wisdom (hannya, prajña), and v. the Dharma Flower period. The order of these periods has already been justified by Tendai (T’ien T’ai), and the distinction between the provisional and real teachings is quite clear. Nevertheless, since the founders of the School of the Immaculate Terrain, Donran, Dōshaku, and Zendō, were so attached to the provisional doctrines, they had entirely forgotten about the real teaching. The practise and teaching of these founders was according to those sutras that were expounded by Shākyamuni during a period of forty years, which represent the first half of his practise. The second half, which consisted of the eight years the Buddha expounded the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), were just thrown away. Donran, Dōshaku, and Zendō were not yet aware of the utter depth of the Buddha teaching.
Hōnen was indeed the inheritor of the teaching of Donran, Dōshaku, and Zendō, but he was ignorant of the origins of what they taught. What he did not know was that his precursors were confused over the provisional and the real teachings, which was to add uncleanliness to filth and pile wrong on top of wrong. The reason for saying this is that, with regard to all the sutras of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), which are two thousand eight hundred fascicles contained in six hundred thirty-seven volumes, along with all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and all the deva (ten) in their celestial and terrestrial dimensions of existence, Hōnen said, “Throw them away and close them, or put them aside and abandon them.”
On this account, Hōnen had mishandled the minds of all sentient beings, particularly through his own personal viewpoint and wording that distorted what the Buddha had expounded, and his total disregard for the sutras. In fact, all that he said amounts to absurd verbiage. As for the distorting evil from his mouth, there are no words to describe it, nor is there a censure that is harsh enough.
But the whole populace of Hōnen’s time put their faith in his absurd wordiness, and all held his work, The Only Choice, in high esteem. As a result, through the people’s veneration for the three volumes of sutras on the immaculate terrain, all the other sutras were neglected. They only worshipped the one Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha) of the Heaven of Ultimate Bliss, whereas all the other Buddhas were forgotten. Indeed, this Hōnen was the bitter antagonist of all the Buddhas, all the sutras, and the archenemy of all the monks that are sage-like, and ordinary people as well. This incomplete and distorting doctrine has now spread to every nook and corner of Japan, pervading the ten directions throughout.
Now then, you were terribly upset when I pointed out that the cause of the calamities in recent years was due to the propagation of the incomplete and distorting qualities of Hōnen’s doctrine. Maybe, by quoting examples from previous periods, I can persuade you to see things with more understanding.
In the second fascicle of the Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly (Maka Shikan), there is a quotation from a passage of the [Chinese] Historical Records, where it says, “When the dynasty of the Kings of Shū (Zhou), 1122-255 BCE) was coming to an end, there were people who went around with dishevelled hair and naked to the waist, who ignored all etiquette and propriety.” [Etiquette and propriety were the foundation of Shū dynasty social behaviour.] In the Broad Elucidation to Support the Practice of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly, Myōraku (Miao-lo) gives a more precise explanation with regard to the end of the Shū dynasty, where he quotes, from The Spring and Autumn Annals, “During the reign of the thirteenth King of Shū, King Hei (770-719 BCE), when he had first moved his capital further towards the east to Rakuyū (Loyang) in order to evade the western barbarians, saw by the river Izen (Yi Quan) people with their hair hanging long and untidy, performing their religious rites in the open wilds. A man with deep insight said, ‘It will not be a hundred years before your dynasty comes to an end, because the devotional rites for the divinities are being desecrated.’” As you already know, the appearance of the omens comes first, then the calamities come later.
The Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries goes on to say, “In China, during the Western Jin dynasty (265-313 CE), there was a well-known poet of exceptional talent called Gen Seki (Ruan Ji), whose hair was always messed up and his clothes untidy. Later, the sons and younger relatives of the nobles at court all imitated him, until those who acted like foul-mouthed hooligans were thought to be behaving normally, whereas those who valued politeness and were restrained in their conduct were referred to as unfashionable, rustic conformists. These were the signs that heralded the downfall of the Shi Ba family who were the kings of the Western Jin dynasty.”
The Universal Teacher Jikaku mentions, in his Pilgrimage Through China in Search of the Dharma, that, in the first year of the reign entitled Kai Shō (Hui Chang 841 CE), the Emperor Bu Sō (Wu Zong) commanded the Teacher of the Dharma Kyōsō (Jing Shuang) of the Shōkyōji Temple (Chang Jing Shi) to transmit the teaching of the immaculate terrain of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha) to every temple. From then on, the Venerable Kyōsō went unceasingly from one temple to another preaching and teaching.
In the following year [842 CE], armies of the Uighur people from Turkistan made inroads into the Chinese frontier. In the third year of the same reign, the military governor of the provinces that lie north of the Yellow River unexpectedly raised a revolt. Later, the Chinese tributary kingdom of Tibet again refused to obey orders, and the Uighurs repeatedly seized land from China. Generally speaking, the military engagements and other disturbances were similar to those during the reign of Shi Kō Tei (Shi Huang Di, 221-209 BCE) or when Kō U (Xiang Yu) of the State of So (Chu) was defeated, a time when towns and villages were put to the torch as well as other atrocities. But what was even worse was the Emperor Bu Sō’s drive to annihilate the Buddha Dharma, during which many temples, monasteries, and stupas were destroyed. This emperor was never able to quell the revolts, nor his need for military interventions. Sick at heart, due to his negative karma, he finally died.
If we look at these events in the light of the fashionableness of the teaching of the immaculate terrain being the cause that brings about the destruction of the state, Hōnen was active during the reign called Kennin (1201-1204 CE), when the retired emperor Go-Toba tried to assert his authority and take back the reins of government in the Jōkyū Disturbance (1221 CE). Hōjō Yoshitoki, the second regent, put down the uprising within a month and sent Go-Toba and two other former emperors into exile.
The downfall of Go-Toba is right in front of our eyes. Hence we have a previous example of this kind of situation in China and also another testimony in our own country Japan. You must not doubt this or even have any misgivings. All you must do to abandon this affliction of the Nembutsu teaching that was diffused by Hōnen is to take refuge in the Sutra on the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma. You must destroy and get rid of The Only Choice, so that we can block the advance of these disasters and calamities, by cutting them off at their source.
The guest, who had by now calmed down a little, said, in a reconciliatory way: Even though I have not yet understood this matter as profoundly as you do, I think I know what you are trying to say. Nevertheless, from Kyōto, where the emperor reigns, to Kamakura, the headquarters of the Shogunate, there are within the realm of the Buddha teaching numerous excellent monks who are pivotally essential to our society. But there is not yet a single person who has written a letter of complaint, pointing out Hōnen’s errors, either to the Shogunate, or had it presented to the throne. You, however, as a person of lowly rank, throw up slanderous words without the slightest concern. What you say is not entirely right, so perhaps it would be better not to declaim your reasoning.
The host said: Although I am not particularly gifted, I have attentively made a study of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna). A bluebottle fly, which hangs on the tail of an excellent steed, can cross over ten thousand miles. The green creeper, that entwines itself up to the top of the pine tree, can grow to a thousand feet. I may not be quick-thinking, but I was born a disciple of the one Buddha Shākyamuni, and I dedicate myself to the sovereign of all sutras, the Sutra on the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma. Therefore, how can I watch the deterioration of the Buddha teaching, without having pity for it and feeling sorrow?
Besides, it says in the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, “If there is a fully ordained monk who sees a person vilifying the Dharma and wilfully neglects to scold him, or turn him out, or to forcibly show him where this person is at fault, then you must realise that this person is an enemy in the midst of the Buddha Dharma. But if this monk ousts or scolds or forcibly shows this person what his errors are, then this monk is my disciple and a real hearer of the Buddha’s voice.”
For my part, even though I may not be a good monk, in order to avoid a scolding for being an enemy within the Dharma, I have taken a general view and only vaguely pointed to a part of the matter in hand.
Furthermore, during the Gennin era (1224 CE), both the Enryakuji Temple of the Tendai School on Mount Hiei and Kōfukuji Temple of the Hossō School in Nara submitted petitions to the throne, on repeated occasions, with the scope of having the Nembutsu School banished. As a result, there was an imperial command and a letter of instruction from the Shogunate that the wood blocks for printing Hōnen’s book, The Only Choice, should be confiscated and brought to the Great Lecture Hall of the Enryakuji Temple. There they were burned, in order to repay the benevolence and kindness of the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. In addition, the people in the service of the Gion Shinto Shrine, who are called “the dog spirit wardens”, were given the order to dig up and destroy Hōnen’s grave. At the same time, the disciples of Hōnen, Ryūkan, Shōkō, Jōkaku, and Sasshō were all exiled to faraway counties and have never been pardoned. So how can you say that nobody sent a letter of complaint with regard to these matters?
The guest replied, in a tone of voice that was still calm: It would be difficult to say that denigrating sutras and vilifying monks is solely limited to Hōnen, since you also drag the three sutras of the immaculate terrain through the mud and vilify the monk Hōnen. However, it is quite true that Hōnen takes the six hundred thirty-seven volumes that comprise two thousand eight hundred eighty-three fascicles of sutras of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), along with all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deva (ten) of both the heavenly and human existential spaces, and then incites the people either to throw them all away, or close them, or put them aside, or abandon them. There is no doubt that these are Hōnen’s words, and the meaning of this injunction is obvious. But because you keep on holding up this flaw in the precious stone and call Hōnen names for it, I cannot say whether he made the injunction out of his bewilderment or his awakening. What is more, it is difficult for me to work out who is the wise and who is the fool, or who is right or who is wrong.
You assert that the origin of the calamities and disasters that have happened on our abode and terrain is due to The Only Choice of Hōnen, and then you loquaciously build up your discourse, in order to emphasize its implications. But what this all comes down to is that the peace of the world and the tranquillity of the abode and terrain are what is asked and prayed for by the rulers, ministers, and the people of the land. The realm prospers and succeeds through the Buddha Dharma, because the Dharma is venerated by the people. If the realm were to be destroyed, and the people were to perish, who would be left to revere the Buddha or to hold faith in his Dharma? Therefore, first we must all pray for the peace and tranquillity of the nation, and then we must strive for the establishment of the correct Buddha Dharma. Now, if you have the means to ward off calamities and bring disasters to an end, I would like to hear what you have to say.
To this, the host replied: When you said it was difficult for you to work out who is the wise and who is the fool, then it is I who am the stubborn fool. I would never dare to say that I am wise. Nevertheless, I would like to quote some passages from the sutras that I have been thinking about. To begin with, both within and outside the Buddha teaching there are numerous texts that deal with various means to quell catastrophes and disasters. It would be difficult to mention them all. In my own modest way, I have been dwelling upon this problem ever since I entered upon the Buddha path. It would seem to me that, by curbing people who vilify the Dharma and respecting and taking seriously the monks who follow the correct path, this would be the best way of securing order and tranquillity in the realm and peace throughout the world.
In the seventh fascicle of the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, it says, “The Buddha said, ‘Apart from the one particular kind of person, if you are to give alms, or the Dharma, as unsullied charity to all the others, those people, who do the practise of giving, will be praised and admired by all.’
“Junda asked, ‘What do you call the one particular kind of person, who is apart from all the others?’
“The Buddha replied, ‘[I mean] the sort of person that is discussed in this sutra, as the one who breaks the precepts.’
“Junda then said, ‘I still do not understand what you mean. Would you explain it further to me?’
“The Buddha addressed Junda, saying, ‘A person who breaks the precepts is referred to as a person of incorrigible disbelief (issendai). With regard to all the other kinds of persons to whom you may bestow alms, all of them will praise you, because you will obtain universal fruition and reward.’
“Again Junda asked the Buddha, ‘What are the implications of a person of incorrigible disbelief?’
“The Buddha said: ‘Assume that there was either a monk or a nun, or a layman or a laywoman, who let out crude and injurious words that vilify and slander the correct Dharma, who continually built up this serious karma, without any sense of repentance in his or her heart, then this individual has taken the direction of a person of incorrigible disbelief.
“‘Let us suppose that there is a person who commits the four grave sins of killing, stealing, wrongful sex, and lying, or a person who commits the five irreversible, noxious acts of killing one’s father, killing one’s mother, killing an arhat, shedding the blood of a Buddha, and destroying the harmony of the clerical community (sō, sangha), and is consciously aware of committing such wrongdoings, who from the outset remains fearlessly unrepentant. In addition to keeping back any admission to having committed these crimes, this person feels no inclination to help, establish, or to care about protecting the correct Dharma. Instead, such a person despises the Dharma and is foul-mouthed about it. Also, the speech of such an individual is satiated with hate and resentment. Again I would say that such a person has taken the direction of the path of one who is an incorrigible unbeliever. Accordingly, except for the people who are of incorrigible unbelief, if you give alms or the Dharma, as an unsullied charity to all the others, you will be praised and admired by everyone.’”
Again, in the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, in the Seventh Chapter on Sage-like Practice, it says, “When I think about the past, I was once the sovereign of a great country in the world of mankind. My name then was Senyo. As this king, I looked upon the sutras and teachings of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna) with love and deep reverence, my mind was pure, good, and without any malice, coarseness, jealousy, or small-mindedness.
“All you good people, at that time I took the teachings of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna) very seriously. When I caught the Brahmins slandering and vilifying the equally broad doctrine (hōdō, vaipulya) of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), the moment I heard them, they were put to death on the spot. All you good people, from that time onwards, due to this cause and the karmic circumstances of undoubting faith, I never fell into hell.”
Again, further on in the same sutra, it says, “In the past, the Tathāgata had the affinities to become the sovereign of a nation, a period in which he was doing the practices of a bodhisattva. He also put to death a number of Brahmins.”
Then, in the same part of this sutra, we have, “There are three categories of killing, which are called the least heinous, the moderately heinous, and the most heinous degrees of taking life. The least heinous degree consists of killing the grubs of ants, on up to the slaughter of animals. This excludes the slaughter of a bodhisattva who has chosen to be born as an animal. The cause and the circumstances of the least heinous degree of taking life can lead to being reborn in the realms of the hells, animality, or those of the hungry demons. But, to be precise, they will only have to suffer in a way that corresponds to the least heinous degree of taking life. The reason for this is that, whatever scanty good roots an animal may have, the one who kills it must pay for the sin of taking its life.
“The moderately heinous degree of killing involves the murder of an ordinary common mortal, up to persons who have attained the stage of the individual vehicle of not having to be reborn in the world of humankind, but in one of the heavens where there is real physical contact, or where there is only mental activity. The karma that results from this offence is to fall into the realms of hell, animality, or that of the hungry demons, where the person who committed this crime will suffer torments that correspond to this moderately heinous category.
“The most heinous degree of taking life consists of parricide, along with the killing of a person who has attained the supreme rewards of the individual vehicle (arhat), or one who has been awakened by affinities [who has understood something of the meaning of life but not all its secrets (Hyakushibutsu, Pratyekabuddha)], or a bodhisattva who [through a practise perpetuating through countless kalpas] has reached the state where no regression is possible. The killer of such persons will fall into the great hells of incessant suffering. But should someone kill a person of incorrigible disbelief, they would not fall into the three degrees of taking life I have just mentioned. All you good people, all those Brahmins were people of incorrigible disbelief.”
In the Sutra on the Benevolent King, it says, “The Buddha informed King Hashinoku (Prasenajit), ‘I intend to entrust the protection of the Dharma to all the rulers of state, rather than the monks and nuns of the order. Why should this be so? Because the monks and nuns do not possess the majesty and power that is normal for a king.’”
Also it says, in the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, “I now entrust the safekeeping of the correct Dharma to all the Kings, great ministers, councillors of state, and also to the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. If there is anybody who vilifies the correct Dharma, then the great ministers, monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen must harshly scold this person and correct his faults.”
Again it says, in the same sutra, “The Buddha said to the Child Bodhisattva Kashō (Mahākashyapa), ‘Due to the cause and karmic circumstances of being capable of holding to and protecting the correct Dharma, I have been able to bring this indestructible vajra [diamond-like] body to fulfilment.’ Good people, those who intend to guard and hold to the correct Dharma have no need to receive the five precepts against killing, stealing, wrongful sex, lying, and the consummation of intoxicating substances, or the need to practise dignified courtesies. Rather, they should carry knives, swords, bows, arrows, halberds, and spears.”
Quoting the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana once more: “There are some people who receive and hold to the five precepts against killing, stealing, wrongful sex, lying, and taking intoxicating substances, but they do not inevitably deserve to be called practitioners of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna). However, a person may not have received the five precepts against killing, stealing, wrongful sex, lying, and taking intoxicating substances, but, by defending the correct Dharma, then this person is a practitioner of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna). A person who defends the correct Dharma ought to be armed with swords, knives, and other weapons. Even though they may carry weapons and swords, I will refer to these people as those who keep the precepts.”
In the Chapter on the Vajra Body of the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, it says: “All you good people, in past ages, in this city of Kushinajō (Kushinagara), a Buddha came into the world called the Tathāgata of the Increasing Benefit of Gladness and Joy (Kangi Zōyaku Nyorai). After this Buddha had passed over to nirvana, his correct Dharma era lived on for countless millions of years.
“Then when there were only forty years left before this Buddha’s Dharma was to come to an end, there was a monk that held to the correct Dharma, whose name was Kakutoku. Also, during that period, there were numerous monks who were vilifying the Buddha teaching. When these decadent monks heard the Venerable Kakutoku finding fault with their amassing wealth, evil rose in their minds. They armed themselves with knives and staves and set out to attack this teacher of the Dharma.
“At this time, the sovereign of the realm, who was called Utoku, on hearing reports of what was happening, and in order to protect the Dharma, went straightaway to the place where the Venerable Kakutoku was expounding it. There and then, the sovereign fought with all his might against the evil monks who had broken the precepts. Thus the Venerable Kakutoku was able to avoid serious harm. On the other hand, the king’s body was covered with so many wounds, from knives, swords, arrows, and halberds, that there was not even the space of a mustard seed that was left untouched.
“Immediately the Venerable Kakutoku praised the king, acclaiming him with words such as, ‘Splendid, extraordinary!’ The Venerable Kakutoku then said, ‘You really are a protector of the correct Dharma. In ages to come, your person will become a vessel for uncountable dharmas.’
“After the king had finished listening to the Dharma, his heart was overwhelmed with joy and gladness. Then the lifespan of the king came to its end. He was then reborn in the Eastern Realm of the Joy of Utterness of the Buddha Ashuku (Akshobhya). This king became the principle disciple of the Buddha Ashuku (Akshobhya). Then all those who were under King Utoku’s command in the skirmish, irrespective as to whether they were ordinary people or from court circles, were all overjoyed. Nobody had any further doubts about having the notion of an enlightened mind that perceives the real behind the seeming – that believes in the consequences of karma, that everything has a Buddha nature – and aims at a Buddha awakening.
“When the life and destiny of the Venerable Kakutoku finally came to an end, he also was reborn in the realm of the Buddha Ashuku, where he became the second among the hearers of this Buddha’s voice. When it is the time for the correct Dharma to come to its close, it should be held to and defended in this manner.
“Listen, Kashō (Mahākashyapa), my disciple. The sovereign at that time was I myself, and the monk who expounded the Dharma was the Buddha Kashō [who was the seventh in a line of Buddhas that ended with Shākyamuni]. Those people who protect the correct Dharma will receive countless benefits and rewards. It is due to such causes and karmic circumstances that today my person is adorned with all kinds of special characteristics, which make it the manifestation of the Dharma which is indestructible.”
The Buddha pointed out to the Bodhisattva Kashō (Mahākashyapa): “It is for this reason that lay believers who wish to defend the Dharma should arm themselves with staves and swords, in order to protect it in this fashion.
“All you good people, after my passing over to nirvana, when the foul and evil age has come into being, the nation and its terrain will become wild and ungoverned, where people will plunder and steal from each other, and the populace will suffer from want and hunger. During this period, on account of hunger and want, many people will resolve to attain a mind of enlightenment and leave their families to become monks and nuns. If we are to give such persons a name, then they are shavepates. But should any of these shaven-headed bonzes see a person holding to and protecting the correct Dharma, then they would chase after him and drive him away, either they would kill him or do him harm. It is for this reason that I allow those who hold to the precepts to associate with those laymen who carry swords and staves. Even though they carry swords and staves, these people, as I have already expounded, are referred to as those who keep the precepts. But even though they are armed with swords and staves, they do not use them to take life.”
In the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), we have, “If there is a person who refuses to have faith in this sutra, but instead berates and vilifies it, he will immediately deny all the Buddha seeds in his heart that would mature and bring about his enlightenment.” The text continues, until, “At the end of his life, he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering.”
This extract from the sutra is perfectly clear, and there is no need for me to add any more words. Broadly speaking, if we are to comply with the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), then we must accept that vilifying the sutras, and other writings of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), is more serious than committing the five irreversible sins [of i. parricide, ii. matricide, iii. killing an arhat, iv. shedding the blood of a Buddha, or v. destroying the harmony of the clerical community (sō, sangha)]. Therefore, anyone who does so will fall into the iron-walled penitentiary of the hell of incessant suffering and need not expect to be set free for an unbearably long time.
According to the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, “One may give alms to a person who has committed the five irreversible sins, but one must never make donations to a person who has vilified the Dharma. A person who kills the grub of an ant will fall into the three evil paths, but a person who prevents others from vilifying the Dharma will ascend to the state of no-retrogression.” These passages show that the monk Kakutoku later became the Buddha Kashō and that the King Utoku finally was incarnated as the Buddha Shākyamuni.
Both the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) and the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana represent the five periods of i. the Flower Garland, ii. the Doctrines of the Individual Vehicle, iii. the equally broad doctrine (hōdō, vaipulya), iv. the wisdom (hannya, prajña) teachings, and v. the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), which all together comprise everything that Shākyamuni taught during his lifetime. Therefore, the implications of these injunctions not to vilify the Dharma are very grave indeed. Who would not pay serious attention to them? Besides, all those people who belong to the school that vilifies the Dharma have forgotten all about the correct way, which is to hold to the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). Instead, their stupidity sinks further downwards, through their attachment to Hōnen’s Only Choice.
For the same reason, some people, who remember what Hōnen looked like when he was alive, paint pictures or sculpt images of him in wood, whereas others, who believe his humbug doctrine, engrave printing blocks of his wickedly distorting verbiage, in order to propagate them to every corner of the land. This is why, at present, all the people in the realm look up to the Nembutsu School of Hōnen and make donations to his disciples.
Also, this situation has come to such that we see artisans removing the hands from the images of Shākyamuni and replacing them with hands making the gestures (mudrā) that are characteristic of the Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), or temples, formerly dedicated to the Buddha Master of Healing (Yakushi) of the Eastern Direction, are renovated with statues of the Tathāgata of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha) of the Western Direction. Also, the ceremony of copying out the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), which has been perpetuated by the Tendai School for some four hundred years, has been replaced with the ritual of transcribing the three volumes of the sutras on the immaculate terrain in the west. In addition to this, we see that the traditional annual lectures of the Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai), which are held on the twenty-fourth of November each year, have been stopped, and ceremonies of Zendō, etc., are carried out instead.
There is no end to counting the disciples of the Buddha who are led astray by Hōnen. Are they not the people who thwart the Buddha, the Dharma, and the clerical community (sō, sangha)? Their distorting and incomplete doctrine is entirely due to Hōnen’s Only Choice.
How awful and sad it is that people should turn their backs on the Buddha’s forbidding admonitions about vilifying the Dharma! Also, it is such a tragedy that people are misguided by the vulgarly commonplace utterances of that stupid monk Hōnen. If we swiftly wish to bring about peace and serenity to humankind, then we must stop all those people throughout the realm who vilify the Dharma.
The guest said: If we are to get rid of those people who vilify the Dharma or those who go against the Buddha’s severe admonitions about speaking ill of the Buddha or the Dharma, are they condemned to be beheaded, as it suggests in the sutric passages you have just quoted? If it is so, then have we also come to the stage of killing and harming others? What about the karma for having committed such sins?
Accordingly we have, in the Sutra on the Great Assembly of Bodhisattvas, “If a person shaves his head and puts on the robe of a monk, whether this person holds to the precepts or breaks his vows, both the deva (ten) and humankind should make offerings to him. As a result, these offerings become donations to the Buddha, because this person is the Buddha’s son. But should anyone curse and abuse this person, then they are reviling and insulting the Buddha himself.”
On giving this matter some thought, it is not a question of whether someone is good or bad, right or wrong, but, by the fact that this person is a member of the religious community (sō, sangha), he ought to have offerings made to him. This is because, by hitting and insulting the son, how can you not bring grief and sadness to the [father] Buddha? Did not those Brahmins, who thrashed the Buddha’s disciple, the Venerable Mokuren (Maudgalyāyana), with staves and bamboo sticks, sink down to the bottom of the hell of incessant suffering for an eternity? Or did not Daibadatta (Devadatta) spend a very long time choking in the flames of the same hell of incessant suffering, for killing the nun Renge?
The sutric evidence of the past is apparent, yet in ages to come the most foreboding of all is the fear of committing the offence of harming members of the religious community (sō, sangha). What you intended to be a dissuasion, to prevent the vilification of the Dharma, would be to infringe the Buddha’s admonition about speaking ill of it. I feel very uneasy about the whole matter. How am I supposed to understand it?
The host replied: You clearly saw the passages from the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana that I have just shown you, and yet you say a thing like that! Can your mind not assimilate what these passages mean, or are you incapable of understanding the reasoning behind them?
This has nothing to do with scolding the disciples of the Buddha, but it has a lot to do with deeply loathing any vilification of the Dharma whatsoever. According to the Buddha incarnations, prior to that of Shākyamuni, the monks who vilified the Dharma were sentenced to be beheaded. However, after the advent of Shākyamuni, whose compassion was so great that his patience could endure the slander and insults of all sentient beings, it was decided forthwith that members of the religious community (sō, sangha), who vilified the Dharma, were to have the donations offered to them discontinued.
Now then, if the four kinds of people faithful to the Buddha teaching, who are the monks, nuns, male and female lay believers, that live within the four seas and the myriads countries, would no longer give alms to those monks whose concept of the Dharma is distorting and incomplete, and if everybody were to take refuge in the right and wholesome doctrine, then how could we be further plagued with troubles or forced to face disasters?
The guest, as a gesture of respect, moved off his floor cushion to sit on the tatami, and then adjusted the neck-band of his robe, and said: The Buddha teachings have many divergences; it is difficult to look into all of them and decide which is the kernel or the ultimate truth. I have doubts about many points, and I am not sure about what is right or where I go astray.
However, the errors of Hōnen’s Only Choice are blatantly obvious, through his placing all the Buddhas, all the sutras, all the bodhisattvas, and all the deva (ten) together, and exhorting the people to “either throw or shut them away, or put them aside and abandon them”. The meaning of this text is perfectly clear. Also, it is on account of this text that the people who are sage-like have left the realm, and the spirits of good have abandoned the areas they frequented. Hence, there is drought and famine throughout the land, with plague and disease everywhere.
Now that you have quoted a broad range of passages from the sutras, you have clearly pointed out what is right, and where one might easily go astray. I have already turned away from my former prejudices, which were my attachment to delusion, and my eyes and ears have been made more aware, each time you raised a point.
The gist of the matter is that everybody, from the one personage of the Emperor down to the myriads of ordinary people, has the desire to enjoy serenity and tranquillity in the places where they live, and peace and security in every corner of the realm. If we could put an end to these persons who are incorrigibly misguided, and insure that people will always make offerings to sustain the monks and nuns who follow the correct Dharma, we should be able to calm down the white foam of misleading and bewildering doctrines that rages on the surface of the Ocean of the Buddha, along with cutting down the greenwood that overgrows the Mountain of the Dharma. Then the world will become as prosperous as it was during the Chinese reigns of Fu Ki (Fu Xi, 2852-2737 BCE) and Shin Nō (Shen Nong, 2737-2697 BCE), and the nation will become ideally perfect, as it was in the age of the Emperors of China, Gyō (Yao, 2357-2255 BCE), and Shun (Shun, 2255-2205 BCE). Naturally, after that we will have time to think over and decide which the shallows are and which are the depths of the Buddha teaching, and to pay deep reverence to the pillars and rafters that hold up the house of the Buddha.
The host burst out, with an exclamation of joy: Just like it says in folk tales, the dove has turned into a hawk, and the sparrow into a clam. This is really something to be glad about. Through your friendly visits to my house, you have accepted to hold to the correct Dharma, and, unlike the tangled weeds in the hemp field, at last you stand up straight. You have let go of the teachings that are distorting and incomplete and have taken refuge in the Dharma that is whole. Indeed, if you are to look over your shoulder to the disasters of yesterday and today and devotedly believe the words of the Buddha, then, through the correct Dharma, the winds will blow softly, and before long there will be plentiful harvests.
However, a person’s heart may change according to the times, and the nature of an object may change according to the conditions surrounding it, just as the reflection of the moon on water is distorted by the waves, or the vanguard of an army may be intimidated by the blades of the enemy. Even though at the present moment you say you hold faith in the correct Dharma, still I fear that later on you will forget all about it.
If we wish to pray for the peace and tranquillity of the abode and terrain, on which we depend for an existence, as well as our happiness and well-being for the present and the future, then we must concentrate our thoughts and hastily increase our efforts to resolve this question of these deluding and incomplete teachings that vilify the Dharma.
This is because, out of the seven calamities that I quoted to you earlier from the Sutra on the Master of Healing, five of them have already happened, only leaving the remaining two to appear. One is “the calamity of being invaded by another country”, and the other is “the calamity of revolt and disorder in our own [country]”. It also says, in the Sutra on the Great Assembly of Bodhisattvas, that when two of these disasters have already been seen, there is only one left to occur, which is the disaster of armed rebellion.
It seems that all the calamities mentioned in the Sutra on the Golden Illuminating Light have already happened, but the disaster of “heartless marauders invading our country for plunder” has not yet made an appearance or come about. Out of the seven disasters that are foretold in the Sutra on the Benevolent King, six of them are raging around us. The only disaster left to be seen is “aggressors will come on all four sides, in order to violate the country”.
However, the same sutra takes care to mention that, “When the abode and terrain on which we depend for an existence falls into disorder, then the demons, and even the more enlightened spirits, start behaving wildly and violently. Then, when this happens, the whole populace goes on the rampage.”
With regard to this sutric text, I would particularly like to insinuate that hundreds of demonic spirits have earlier shown violent and erratic behaviour, which has brought about death and ruin to much of the population. Since it is obvious that the first of those disasters, predicted in the sutras, has already come to pass, why should we have any doubts about those to come? When the remaining disasters, of rebellion within our own frontiers and invasion from abroad, which are caused by people’s belief in evil dharmas, are all to come rushing down upon us, then what is that time going to be like?
The Emperor, as the foundation of the state, governs all that is under its sky; the ministers and the people have dominion over the fields and gardens of the realm and supply all its needs. However should marauders from other regions force their way into it, or should rebels within our shores seize and take hold of the lands of the people, then why should there not be screams of people going out of their minds with terror? If the state is lost and families are wiped out, then where is the place where people could run to safety? If you are in any way thinking about your own protection and security, then first solemnly pray for the peace and tranquillity of all the four directions of our realm.
Also, you should devoutly pray that the people will abandon those teachings that are distorting and incomplete and take refuge in the correct Dharma. Among other things, I have the impression that all individuals, who are living in the world at present, have fears about their existence after death, hence the reason for their having faith in erroneous teachings and their veneration for things that vilify the Dharma.
For my part, I feel compassion for and yet am exasperated with people who are confused over which is the correct Dharma and which teachings are distorting and incomplete. But when you think that it is the various Buddhist sectarian dogmas that they have taken refuge in, then it makes me feel distressed. With the strength of faith that they hold to them, I wonder how it is that, without any second thought, they can revere such rambling, whose significance is so unfulfillingly untrue? If people continue in this manner to attach themselves regardlessly to these sectarian, distorting, and incomplete teachings, together with having a distorted view of the true significance of the correct Dharma, they will sooner or later be leaving the world of the living and no doubt fall into the hells of incessant suffering.
This is why, in the Sutra on the Great Assembly of Bodhisattvas, this point is expounded in the following manner: “Should there be a king of a nation, who, for countless existences, practised giving donations, keeping the precepts and acting with discernment, but when he sees the Buddha Dharma fading away, remains indifferent, doing nothing to sustain or protect it, then all the countless good roots that he had accumulated would all be entirely lost and eradicated forever.” The text continues, until, “Before long this sovereign will fall seriously ill, and, after his lifespan has come to its end, he will fall into one of the great hells. Likewise, the same fate will befall the sovereign’s consort, princes, ministers, the lords of the cities, and the squires of the counties as well.”
Also we have, in the Sutra on the Benevolent King: “If somebody destroys the Buddha teaching, this person will have children who have no respect or affection. There will be disharmony between father, mother, elder and younger brothers, wife and offspring; also there will be no help from the deva (ten) or the spirits of good. Raging illnesses and evil demons will infest this person, in order to do harm. Misfortune and something eerie and nasty will pursue this person, bringing obstacles and bad luck. When death comes, this person will either fall into one of the hells, or the realms of dharmas of the hungry demons, or even that of animality. Should this person escape this torment and be born in the realm of dharmas of humankind, he will receive the fruition and reward of a subordinate in the army.
“Just as echoes reiterate the sound, or shadows extend from the original form, or, when, after writing at night-time, one puts out the light and, even if what is written cannot be seen, the writing is still on the paper, in the three realms of desire, form, and formlessness, the fruitions and retributions of karma work in the same way.”
[These three realms are i) where sentient beings have organs of sense, which have the capacity to desire or need, ii) where there is real physical contact, and, at the same time, where iii) there is mental activity, which can also act independently from the body.]
It says, in the second fascicle of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), in the Chapter on Metaphors and Similes, “If there is a person who will not hold faith in this sutra, but, instead, vilifies and disparages it. . .”, the text continuing, until, “. . .when this person’s lifetime has come to an end, he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering.” Also, it says, in the seventh fascicle of the same sutra, in the Chapter on the Bodhisattva Jōfukyō, “For a thousand kalpas, they suffered agonies and torments, in the hell of incessant suffering.”
In the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, we have, “By keeping away and separating oneself from a good friend who has accepted and holds to the correct Dharma, even though this person has no wish to hear about it, but instead abides by the teachings that are distorting and incomplete, this will be the cause and karmic circumstances of making such a person sink down to the depths of the hell of incessant suffering, where there will be torments and agonies that defy description.”
When we broadly look through all the sutras, we see that they all explain that the offence of vilifying the Dharma is the most serious of all. It is the saddest thing that people should depart from the gateway of the correct and hence the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) and get themselves caught up in doctrines that are distorting and incomplete. How stupid it is to be entwined in the coils of erroneous teachings, or to be ensnared forever in the net of doctrines that deviate from and vilify the reality of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma)! Such people lose their way in the smog of these erroneous teachings, and, when they die, they sink down to the bottom of hell. How these people must grieve and suffer!
Now, you must renew yourself and break away from your narrow-minded beliefs concerning the Dharma, and quickly direct your faith towards the real vehicle of the individuating goodness of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma). By doing so, the three realms of desire, form, and formlessness become the abode of the Buddha. How could it possibly be that a Buddha abode should fall into decay? Throughout its ten directions everywhere is a terrain that is super eminently sublime. How could such a super, eminently sublime terrain be possibly harmed?
If the abode does not decline or diminish, and the terrain is neither broken nor dismantled, then our persons are able to have peace and fulfilment. What goes in our minds will be stable and at rest, through our immovable faith. You must really take notice of and hold faith in these words that I am saying.
The guest said: When it comes to the life we are living now and also the lives to come after our deaths, who would not be concerned about such a grave matter? Now, when I read through the passages of the sutras you quoted earlier, I understand the purport of what the Buddha said. I realise that vilifying the Dharma is a very serious offence, and to destroy or ruin the Buddha teaching is a wrongdoing that penetrates deeply into our lives. Through a misguided single belief in the one Buddha of Boundless Light (Amida, Amitābha), I rejected all the other Buddhas. I worshipped the three sutras on the immaculate terrain, but I entirely disregarded all the other sutras. This was not some distorted way of thinking of my own. I was simply following the words of eminent forerunners, such as Donran, Dōshaku, Zendō, Eshin, and others. It must be the same for all the people of the ten directions, who have been following the doctrines and practises of the immaculate terrain.
The practises, which in this life impair the clarity of our original, unsullied mind, in the next life will drag us down to the hell of incessant suffering. The passages you have quoted are quite clear about this point. The reasoning is detailed, and there is no reason for doubt. The more I listen to your compassionate instruction, and also when you have upbraided me for my own benefit, I am able to clear away the blockages that have been keeping me back.
I must quickly set up a policy to rectify all this vilification of the Dharma, in order to re-establish peace and order throughout the land. First, peace must be brought to this present life, in order to be a help to what will happen after death. This is not a faith for myself alone, but I would like to see that others are forewarned about the hidden dangers of vilifying and distorting the Dharma.
Aged Japanese wood painting, Taiseki-ji Temple, Japan
Martin Bradley, The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishōnin, ISBN: 2-913122-19-1, 2005,
The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishōnin by Martin Bradley
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.