Thesis on Questions and Answers Concerning
The ninth month of the first year of Kō.an , at 57 years of age
The question is asked: What has been decided as to what should be the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) for the common mortals during the dissolute era of the final period of Shākyamuni?
The answer is given: The title and theme of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) must be the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon).
The question is asked: From which sutric text does this explanation derive?
The answer is given: In the fourth fascicle of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) in the Chapter on the Dharma as a Teacher, it says, “the Bodhisattva Sovereign Medicine (Yaku’ ō, Baishajya-raja), in every place wherever the Dharma Flower is expounded, read, recited, or written out, or wherever this sutra is placed, it should be decided that a stupa made of the seven precious materials be erected, as high as it is wide, and solemnly decorated. Again, there is no further need to be contented with just a reliquary. Why is this so? It is because inside this is placed the whole person of the Tathāgata.”
In the fourth fascicle of the Sutra on the Buddha’s passing over to Nirvana, in the Chapter on the Nature of the Tathāgata, it says, “What is more Kashō (Mahākāshapa), what was taught by the teacher of all the Buddhas is referred to as the Dharma. This is why the Tathāgata venerates and makes offerings to it. The reason why the Dharma is eternal is because all the Buddhas are also eternal.”
The Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai) says this about the perfect absorption into the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) as a single object of meditation: “In the sites where Buddhas attained to the path, set up a good high pedestal and enshrine the whole of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). There is no need to place any Buddha images or any other sutra. Only the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) needs to be enclosed within the stupa.”
It is said without doubt that the Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai) in the second chapter of his Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly (Maka Shikan) says that the fundamental object of veneration for the four kinds of practice of perfect absorption into the one object of contemplation (samādhi) is the Buddha Amida (Amitābha). In the Tripitaka Fukū’s translation of the Ceremony of the Sovereign Yoga Practices for Contemplating the Wisdom of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), the fundamental object of veneration is the Shākyamuni and Tathāgata Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai, Prabhūtaratna) of the Dharma Flower. Do you really refute the argument of these two?
The answer is given: This is not my intended meaning. What you have just mentioned now are quotations from the sutras and the explanations of the Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai). However, with regard to the Buddha Amida (Amitābha) being the fundamental object of veneration for the four kinds of samādhi in the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly (Maka Shikan), there are three kinds of image of this Buddha that correspond to the Sutra on the Buddha’s Answers to Monjushiri’s Questions, the Sutra on the Samādhi in which the Buddhas of the Ten Directions are Seen as Clearly as the Stars at Night, and the Sutra on the Invocations [dhāranîs] to Entreat the Bodhisattva Kannon to Destroy and Suppress Poisonous Harm.
Nevertheless, these sutras are from among those that were expounded prior to the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) and had not yet revealed the true reality. The images of the Buddha Amida in their role as fundamental objects of veneration are depicted as either being seated in perpetual contemplation, or in a stance of perpetual practice, or in his manifestation of being in the samādhi of his own awakened mind.
There are two kinds of samādhi, one of which consists in half practice and half contemplation and whose fundamental object of veneration for contemplation is made up of the Seven Buddhas and the Eight Bodhisattvas in the Sutra on the Invocations [dhāranîs] of the Universal and Equally Broad Teachings. The samādhi that is made up of two halves consists of the two practices of walking round the Buddha images to show reverence and also sitting in quietude in order to meditate upon them. The other samādhi synthesizes the full meaning of the Shākyamuni and Tathāgata Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai, Prabhūtaratna) in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō).
It would seem that, since we are referring to the samādhi of the Dharma Flower, then the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) ought to be its fundamental object of veneration. The Ceremony of the Sovereign Yoga Practices for Contemplating the Wisdom of the Dharma Flower of the Tripitaka Fukū took this concept from the Chapter on the Appearance of the Stupa made of Precious Materials. But using this as the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) of the Lords of the teaching of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) was not the meaning that was intended. The Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) that I mentioned previously is the one that has Shākyamuni, Tathāgata Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai, Prabhūtaratna), and all the Buddhas of the ten directions inscribed upon it, which is what the practitioner of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) really intends.
The question is asked: In Japan there are ten schools – the Kusha School, the Jōjitsu School, the Ritsu School, the Hossō School, the Sanron School, the Flower Garland School, the Shingon School, the Jōdo School, the Zen School, and the Hokke School – all of which have conflicting fundamental objects of venerations. For instance, the three Schools of the Kusha, Jōjitsu, and the Ritsu use the lesser manifestation of the corresponding body of Shākyamuni. Both the Hossō and Sanron Schools use the superior manifestation of the corresponding body that is sixty feet high. The Flower Garland School uses the image of the Tathāgata Shākyamuni as the manifestation of Birushana [Vairocana] enthroned upon the calyx of the lotus flower. The Shingon School has the image of the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata). The Jōdo School venerates the Buddha Amida [Amitābha]. The Zen School uses the image of Shākyamuni himself. But why does the Hokke or Tendai School use the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) as its fundamental object of veneration?
Answer: They use the content of their sutra as an object of veneration instead of an image of the Buddha, which is significant.
Question: What does this mean, and why is this sutra paramount?
The answer is given: You must use the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) that is paramount. For instance, when the Confucian teachings were the supreme doctrine, the Three August Rulers and the Five Emperors were used as fundamental objects of veneration. But with the advent of the Buddha teaching, the images of Shākyamuni in turn became the fundamental objects of veneration.
The question is asked: How is it that you do not use the image of the Buddha as your fundamental object of veneration, but only use the theme and title of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) instead?
Answer: Take another look at the sutric quotation from the Chapter on the Dharma as a Teacher at the beginning of this thesis. But this is not what I mean. Shākyamuni and Tendai (T’ien T’ai) decided that the fundamental object of veneration had to be the Dharma Flower Sutra. Therefore, just like Shākyamuni and Tendai (T’ien T’ai) in the past, Nichiren in the present final era takes the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) as being the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon). This is because the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is the father and mother of Shākyamuni and the eyes of all the Buddhas. Broadly speaking, Shākyamuni, the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata), and all the Buddhas of the ten directions are brought into being through the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). Hence, it is the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) that can give birth to all existence.
It is asked: What evidence do you have for this?
The answer is given: In the Sutra on the Bodhisattva Fugen, it says, “This sacred book of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna) is the treasure store of all the Buddhas. It is the means of seeing of all the Buddhas of the ten directions and of the past, present, and future. It is also the seed from which all the Tathāgatas of the past, present, and future are born.” Furthermore, it says, “This equally broad (hōdō, vaipulya) sutra is the one that is the eyes of all the Buddhas and is the means whereby all the Buddhas acquire the five kinds of vision of i) humankind, ii) the deva (ten), iii) the wisdom of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), iv) of the bodhisattvas, and v) that of the wisdom of the Buddhas. It is the sutra out of which the three kinds of entity of the Buddha come into being in a universally all-embracing manner. Through this universal gesture of the Buddha’s truth, it proves that this sutra is the sea of nirvana. Therefore, it is this sea that gives rise to the three kinds of immaculately pure embodiments of the Buddha. These three bodies are the fields of happiness of humankind and the deva (ten). Also these three bodies are worthy of the utmost veneration.”
This text from the sutra shows that the spirit of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is able to give rise to the Buddha, and also it is from whence the Buddha comes into being. It is the embodiment of the Buddha himself. However, one has to be precise. It is only the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) that can be applied to the ceremony of making offerings, in order to open the eyes of either painted or wooden images of the Buddha. In any case, nowadays with regard to these ceremonies concerning painted or wooden Buddha images, there are the mantras and the hand gestures [mudrā] that are carried out by the Shingon School to make offerings for the opening of the eyes of the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata). But this is extremely unproductive.
The question is asked: Between the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) being the fundamental object of veneration and the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) being the fundamental object of veneration, which is the superior?
The answer is given: If it were to be the significance that was intended by the Universal Teachers Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō, then the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) would be the superior, and the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) would be the lesser.
Question: What do you mean by this?
Answer: In the Universal Teacher Kōbō’s work, The Precious Key to the Esoteric Storehouse, in the part where it deals with the ten stages of firm ground, it says, “The eighth is the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). The ninth is the Flower Garland Sutra. And the tenth is the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata).” From the point of view of these Universal Teachers, this is starting from the shallows and going towards the deep. In the Universal Teacher Jikaku’s Commentary on the Sutra on the Vajra Apex and his Commentary on the Sutra on Excellent Achievement [susiddhi], as well as the Universal Teacher Chishō’s Taking refuge in the Significance of the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata), they all say, “The Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) is first, and the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) comes second.”
Question: What do you think about this?
Answer: According to the evaluation of the Tathāgata Shākyamuni, the Tathāgata Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai, Prabhūtaratna), and all the Buddhas of the ten directions in general, all say, “Out of all the sutras of the past, present, and future, the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is pre-eminently the foremost.”
Question: Throughout present-day Japan, all the monks of the Tendai and Shingon Schools, as well as the sovereign, his ministers, and all the common people say questioningly, “How can Nichiren, that wrangler of the Dharma, be superior to the Universal Teachers Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō?”
Answer: Nichiren reproachfully replies, “Should the Universal Teachers Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō be superior to Shākyamuni, Tathāgata Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai, Prabhūtaratna), and all the Buddhas of the ten directions?”
Point number one: In present-day Japan, from the sovereign of the realm down to the common people are all the children of Shākyamuni. Shākyamuni, in his very last testament, stated, “It should be according to the Dharma, and not according to the person who expounds it.”
The Dharma Flower Sutra in the first place conforms to the Dharma. So are these three universal teachers really so superior? Should not the sovereign, his ministers, the people, right on down to the horses and oxen who trail behind, be considered as unfilial brats? This is point two.
Question: Did not the Universal Teacher Kōbō take a look at the Dharma Flower Sutra?
Answer: The Universal Teacher read through all the sutras. Among these were the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Flower Garland Sutra, and the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata). All of them were read from the point of view of starting from the shallows and proceeding towards the depths, as well as taking into consideration which sutra was the superior and which was the less profound. On reading the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) after his own fashion, he said, “The Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) of the Bodhisattva Mañjushrī (Monjushiri) is the esoteric and secret store of All the Buddha Tathāgatas, but the one that was expounded by Shākyamuni is not of the same category.” Again, after reading further on, according to his own way of understanding the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), he said, “Bodhisattva Sovereign Remedy (Yaku’ ō, Bhaishajya-rāja), I must now tell you that, out of all the sutras I have expounded, there is nevertheless, among them the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), which is the third in rank.” Again, when both the Universal Teachers Jikaku and Chishō read this sutra according to their own perception, they say, “Out of all the sutras that exist, this is the most mediocre.” Also they said, “It is by far the most second-rate.”
When Shākyamuni, Tathāgata Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai, Prabhūtaratna), the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata), and all the other Buddhas compared the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) with all the other sutras, they said, “The Dharma Flower is the highest of all the sutras.” What this comes down to is, have Shākyamuni and all the Buddhas of the ten directions, as well as the three Universal Teachers Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō considered what the fundamental of the object of veneration should be? In any case, the way Nichiren would settle the matter would be that, since these three Universal Teachers have turned their backs on all the Buddhas of the ten directions for such a long time, could they themselves not become the fundamental of the object of veneration instead?
Question: The Universal Teacher Kōbō [774-835 CE] came from the county of Sanuki. He was the disciple of Gonsō, who had received the title ‘Highest of Monks’. The Universal Teacher Kōbō also had the highest understanding of the doctrines of the six Sanron and Hossō schools. In the fifth month of the twenty-third year of the historical reign called Enryaku [804 CE], Kōbō was commanded by the Emperor Kammu to go to China, where, under the tutelage of the Chinese sovereign Junsō [805 CE], Kōbō entered the Seiryūji Temple and there under the Master Keika he received the whole of the Dharma teaching of the Shingon school. Later, the Master Keika made Kōbō the seventh in the line of the Dharma heritage that stems from the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata). His concept is based on the idea that, even though human beings may live and die, the Dharma remains constant, in the same way as water can be poured from one vessel into another. Even though the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata), Kongōsatta, Ryūmyō, Ryūchi, Kongōchi, Fukū, Keika, and Kōbō may have been different vessels, the water of the wisdom that was passed from one vessel to the next remains the same Shingon teaching.
After this Universal Teacher had studied the doctrines of the Shingon School, he then crossed over three thousand waves and billows, before he finally arrived in Japan. The three successive sovereigns Heizei, Saga, and Junna all conferred honours upon him. On the nineteenth day of the first month of the fourteenth year of the historical reign Kōnin [823 CE], he received the imperial command to build the Tōji [Eastern Temple]. From then on, the esoteric teachings of the Shingon School was propagated everywhere. Throughout the five home provinces, the seven districts, the sixty-six counties of both islands, how could anybody not have been caught up in the latest of fashions of taking up the bell and twirling the vajra of the Shingon rites?
Again, the Universal Teacher Jikaku was from the county of Shimotsuke and was a disciple of Kōchi Bosatsu. In the third year of the reign Daidō [809 CE] at the age of fifteen, Jikaku became the disciple of the Universal Teacher Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi). He then spent the following fifteen years on Mount Hiei, during which he studied the teachings of the Sanron, Hossō, Kegon, Ritsu, and Kusha schools, but in particular he studied the teachings of the Dharma Flower School [Tendai] and those of the Shingon School, in order to be able to transmit them. In the fifth year of the reign Shōwa [838 CE], Jikaku went to China at the time of the reign of Crown Prince Bu Sō [Kaishō, 841 CE], where he met Hassen, Gensei, Gishin, Hōgetsu, Shuei, Jion, and others of the Tendai School. He also met the Shingon School’s Sekigaku. In China, Jikaku mastered the two paths of the exoteric and esoteric teachings. Furthermore, he studied the Shingon secret doctrines for a period of ten years to the fulfilment of his merits. He then became the ninth in the line of the Dharma heritage that stems from the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata).
In the first year of the reign entitled Kashō [848 CE], the Emperor Ninmyō became Jikaku’s disciple. Throughout the reigns Ninju [851-54 CE] and Saikō [854-57 CE], this Universal Teacher wrote commentaries on the Sutra on the Vajra Apex and the Sutra on Excellent Achievement [susiddhi]. Among other things, he built the Sōji.in Monastery on Mount Hiei and became the third patriarch of the Tendai School. This was the beginning of the intermixture of the Shingon teachings with those of Tendai (T’ien T’ai).
Now we come to the Universal Teacher Chishō, who was from the county of Sanuki. In the fourth year of the reign Tenchō [827 CE], he became a novice on Mount Hiei and then became the disciple of the Master Gishin. In Japan, Chishō studied under the meritorious auspices of the Abbots Gishin, Jikaku, and Enchō with whom he studied the doctrines of eight schools. In the first year of the historical reign Ninju [851 CE], the Emperor commanded that Chishō should go to China for further study. Throughout the Emperor of China Sensō’s rule, whose reign was called Taichū [847-59 CE], Chishō studied under the Universal Teachers the Masters Hōzen and Ryōsho for seven years, during which he became thoroughly versed in both the exoteric and esoteric teachings. In the course of the reign that was given the name of Tennan [857-59 CE], Chishō returned to Japan. Both the Emperors Montoku and Seiwa became his disciples. Whether they did it for their present lives or for their lives to come, illustrious nobles, whose heritages were as stable as the sun and moon, and also ministers, as well as the common people, regularly became believers who diligently looked towards Chishō’s teachings and took refuge in them. The reason for this was that all of these people were silly and misguided enough to simply take Chishō at his word. Indeed, apart from contradicting the words of the Buddha, “according to the Dharma and not according to the person who expounds it”, should we then suppose that the Dharma is according to Kōbō and not according to the Buddha?
Question: In the last analysis, what does this all mean?
Answer: The thousand years that came after the Lord of the Teaching Shākyamuni had entered into the extinction of nirvana was the appropriate time for the broad propagation of the Buddha teaching in India. The first five hundred years consisted of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), and the five hundred years that followed were for the propagation of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna). Even though there might have been disputes over the individual (shōjō, hīnayāna) and the universal vehicles or over the provisional and the real teachings, there was decidedly very little mention of the esoteric and exoteric teachings. Fifteen years after the debut of the formal era of the Dharma, the Buddha teaching had already spread as far as China. It was certain that in the beginning there were violent disputes between those who followed the teaching of Shākyamuni and the Confucianists and Taoists.
Nevertheless, the Buddha Dharma which was not different from that of India gradually spread, in spite of all the occasional disputes over the individual and universal vehicles (daijō, mahāyāna) or over the provisional and the real teachings. After the Buddha teaching had been established in China for six hundred years, at the time of the Emperor Gensō [r.713-55 CE], three Indian monks who all held the title of being well-versed in the tenets of the Buddha teaching (Tripitaka) – Zenmui, Kongōchi, and Fukū – came to China and established the Shingon School, whereupon they set about demolishing the arguments of the Flower Garland School, the Dharma Flower School, and any other school that was not their own. From the sovereign to the common people, everybody thought that the dissimilarity between the Shingon teachings and those of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) were like clouds and mud. Later, during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Tokusō [780-804 CE], there was a person called the Universal Teacher Myōraku (Miao-lo) of the Dharma Flower School who had a strong desire to topple the Shingon school in debate. However, the arrangements for such an occasion never came about, so that there was nobody who could make it clear as to which of these two schools was the superior.
In Japan, during the reign of Kinmei [539-71 CE] who was the thirtieth of sovereigns who were humankind, the Buddha Dharma started to cross over to Japan from Korea. At first, for a period of thirty or so years, there were terrible disputes between the followers of the Buddha and those who followed the local Shinto deities. During the reign of the Empress Suiko [592-628 CE], Prince Shōtoku set about spreading the Buddha teaching, at about the same time the Senior Monks Ekan and Kanroku from Korea were busy propagating the doctrines of the Sanron School. In the course of the reign of the Emperor Kōtoku [645-54 CE], the teachings of the Zen school were brought over by Dōshō, and, when the Emperor Tenmu was on the throne [673-86 CE], Chikō, who came from the northernmost Korean kingdom Shiragi, brought over the teachings of the Hossō School.
At the time when the Emperor Genshō was on the throne [715-24 CE], the Tripitaka Zenmui brought the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) to Japan, but he did not propagate it. During the time when the Emperor Shōmu ruled Japan [724-49 CE], the Universally Virtuous Shinjō and the Highest of the Order Rōben came over to Japan with the Flower Garland Sutra. Then, when the forty-fourth in the line of sovereigns who were humankind Kōken [749-58 CE] was the Empress of Japan, the Chinese Tō (Tang) Dynasty Master Ganjin arrived with the teachings of the Ritsu School and the Dharma Flower Sutra. They did propagate the rules for monks and nuns according to the Ritsu School, but the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) was not circularised.
During the seventh month of the twenty-third year of the reign entitled Enryaku [804 CE] of the Emperor Kanmu who was the fiftieth in the line of sovereigns of Japan, the Universal Teacher Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi) was given permission to cross over to the shores of China, where he met two disciples of the Universal Teacher Myōraku (Miao-lo), Dōsui and Gyōman, from whom he was transmitted the wisdom and the contemplative practice of the perfect absorption into the one object of contemplation of the Dharma Flower School. Also, the Universal Teacher Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi) received the bodhisattva precepts from the Teacher of Monastic Rules Dōsen and studied the esoteric teachings of the Shingon School under Master Jungyō as well. When the Universal Teacher Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi) came back to Japan, he had difficulty in demonstrating the superiority of the Dharma Flower School to the Shingon School in the same way as he had learned from his Chinese teachers. But, by quoting and comparing explanations from the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) and the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), not only did he show that the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) was inferior to the Dharma Flower, but he also considered taking Tendai’s (T’ien T’ai) insight and understanding of Zenmui’s Commentary of the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) and making it a part of the teaching of the Hokke School.
With regard to the Shingon School’s attempts to impose itself, it seems more than likely that, after the sutras of the Shingon School of the Universal Teacher Kōbō had been refuted, there must have been a lot of bad feeling. Not only was the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) proven to be inferior, but also the Flower Garland Sutra was shown to be subordinate. What a shame it is that neither Jikaku of the Temple on Mount Hiei nor Chishō of the Onjōji Temple could accept Tendai’s (T’ien T’ai) view concerning the Commentary of the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata). However, in order that the prejudiced views of the Universal Teacher Kōbō should not spread throughout Japan, both the Universal Teachers were in agreement over the Dharma Flower being superior to the Flower Garland Sutra. But, since these two were of the same mind as the Universal Teacher Kōbō with regard to the Shingon doctrine being superior to the Dharma Flower, it is not surprising that they became the bitter enemies of the Universal Teacher Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi).
Nevertheless, after these events, there were in Japan persons of great virtue who had reached the highest level of wisdom. But there was nobody who could surpass these three Universal Teachers Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō. At that time, in an interval of four hundred years, the whole of Japan had finally decided that the teachings of the Shingon School were superior to the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). Now and then, one came across people who had studied Tendai (T’ien T’ai), who could give reasons why the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) was superior to teachings of the Shingon School. However, the pavilions of the enthroned Lord Tendai (T’ien T’ai) were so high and venerated that there was no need to be afraid of anything that was argued. On the other hand, there were other people who did not uphold the significance of the Tendai (T’ien T’ai) doctrine. But when they vainly said that they mean the same thing, they then scoffed derisively, as though they thought they were not on the same level as the teachers of the Shingon School.
Albeit throughout Japan there were some hundred thousand temples and Shinto shrines, practically all of them were in the sway of the Shingon School. Occasionally, there were temples of the Dharma Flower School standing alongside, giving the impression that the Shingon temples were the masters and those of the Dharma Flower were servants. If there were people who were versed in more than one teaching, who in their hearts felt they were at one with the Shingon teachings, then all the enthroned lords, heads of temples, temple surveyors who were the directors of nuns, as well as the directors of temple affairs, would all earnestly look up towards the Shingon School. So when the people did likewise in order to please their superiors, there was not a single person who could get away from the teachers of the Shingon School.
Although there were people who read and gave lip service to the Dharma Flower Sutra being paramount, in their innermost thoughts this teaching would only be second or third in rank, or either they believed it to be so in their bodies, speech, and minds. As for practitioners reading the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) as being paramount and who practised and venerated it with perfect sincerity of body, speech, and mind, there was not a single person, during a time lapse of some four hundred years. What is more, you should not even try to imagine that there was anybody who was a practitioner who was able to hold to this sutra. This is because, from the one sovereign person down to the myriads of ordinary people, they were all “full of jealousy while the Tathāgata was present in this world, not to mention after his passing over to nirvana” and also bitter enemies of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō).
For all that, Nichiren is the son of a person in the fishing industry, from a seaside village of Tōjō that is in the district of Nagasa, which is in the twelfth out of the fifteen counties [Kuni] of Tokaidō and goes by the name of Awa. At the age of twelve, I was sent up to the village temple that was called Kiyosumidera. Apart from being far away in the provinces, and even though it was called a monastery, there was nobody who had really studied. Nevertheless, the level of learning and practice in all the provinces was considerably high. But for my part, I felt incompetent. Nobody taught me, and it was not easy to see the difference between the degrees of importance or unimportance in the original concepts of the ten schools of the Buddha teaching.
From time to time, I prayed to the Buddha and bodhisattvas, imploring them to help me. I collated all the sutras and discourses, so as to apply them to the ten schools. The Kusha School teachings were close at hand and shallow in meaning, but it seemed that a part of them coincided with the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna). The Jōjitsu teachings had mistakes and fallacies, due to their being a rough-and-ready combination of the universal (daijō, mahāyāna) and individual vehicles (shōjō, hīnayāna). Originally, the teachings of the Ritsu School were those of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), but, somewhere along the line, their doctrines became those of the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), and nowadays they wholeheartedly belong to it.
The Ritsu School teachings were commented upon by the Universal Teacher Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi), who saw them as an unessential study. It is more than likely that the source of the Hossō School’s teachings were from the shallow and easy dharma gateways of the provisional universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna). Gradually, these teachings were extended and assimilated the real universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna) also. As a result, the reasons for demolishing this school are already known.
A comparison could be made with the rebellions of Masakado or Sumitomo against the Shogunate. This is an example of a subordinate bringing down his superior. Again, the Sanron School has a portion of its teaching that is the relativity (kū) of the provisional universal vehicle’s doctrine. This school also considered its teachings to be those of the real universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna). Whereas the Flower Garland School is said to be founded on the teachings of the provisional universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), it also takes advantage of the other schools, rather in the same way as an overbearing regent subjugates the heir to the throne. However, because they became a school that was hostile to the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), they can be alluded to as being the yes-men who would follow a powerful sovereign.
The doctrines of the Jōdo School are also partially made up from the teachings of the provisional universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna). Due to skilful scheming on the part of Zendō and Hōnen, nearly all the sutras were held high. But the Dharma Flower Sutra that was used for its insight in order to see the truth or by its role as a fundamental object of veneration was degraded. Those who had propensities for the correct and formal eras of the Dharma were glorified, but those whose propensities were for the final period of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō) were held in contempt. Those who did have propensities for this final period were picked out for the Nembutsu School. Whatever propensities people had for other teachings, the corresponding sutras were demolished. A lifetime of the Buddha’s sage-like instruction was lost, and only the single gateway of the Nembutsu School remained. This is rather like the marginalisation of a person of excellent virtues, due to a sharp-witted, nasty individual getting himself raised to a higher position, because people respect the short-lived qualities of his brain.
As for the Zen School, it is said to be the real Dharma which stands apart from the lifetime of sage-like teaching. This could be compared to killing parent and adopting the child, or having the ruler killed so that the successor may take his position. The so-called Shingon School, by being simply an arbitrary play of words, allows its followers to hide the original source of their doctrine, so as to make it difficult to reveal to people whose propensities are less profound. For many years now, their followers have been deluded by this madness.
The Shingon School was not originally from India, even though its adepts say so. But the evidence for this should be looked into. What it all comes down to is due to the fact that the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) was brought over to Japan. One can confront the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) by quoting certain excerpts from the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), in order to show precisely where it is superior. It is due to seven important implications that the Sutra on the Tathāgata of the Universal Sun (Dainichi-Nyorai, Mahāvairochana-Tāthagata) is inferior to the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). The evidence in support of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is understandably clear.
At this point, I am not going to make quotations. However, there are people who say that the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is sovereign lord only due to two or three important implications. Outside these inferences, any other viewpoint is distorted. For example, it is like Ryūsō who was a humble personage that led the Emperor Bin’s horse by the bridle, and then, by being an exceptionally outstanding person of the people, he manoeuvred his way up to the position of emperor through his dirty tricks. Again, this is comparable to the Brahman called Self Conceit, who sat upon Shākyamuni as though he were a couch. In China, there does not seem to have been anybody like this. Also, I doubt if there was anyone similar in Japan, albeit it is already four hundred years since these Shingon and other intrigues took place.
Since there was such dubiousness over what was right and what was wrong in the Buddha Dharma, this meant that the laws of the realm were gradually affected. In time, this would certainly bring about another country destroying our own, and we would become a vanquished nation. I, Nichiren, through having pondered over these matters, was the only person who really understood this. For the sake of the Dharma and the laws of the realm, I collected all the relevant texts and wrote them out onto a scroll. This document I presented to Hōjō Tokiyori, and the name of this document was Securing the Peace of the Realm through the Establishment of the Correct Dharma (Risshō Ankoku ron). So what is in this text has been written out in detail.
The eighty-second monarch in the line of sovereigns who were humankind was the Emperor Go-Toba. He was also called by the nickname the Dharma King of Oki. On the fifteenth day of the fifth month of the third year of the reign called Kenkyū [1192 CE], forces in favour of the Emperor Go-Toba attacked, captured, and put to death Iganotarō Hangan Mitsue, who was closely related to the Shogunate regency. Then, when the fervour of the troops who supported the emperor was aroused to attack the regent Yoshitoki, in Kamakura, the emperor before long was scouring the five home provinces and the seven districts for sturdy men to become his soldiers. Just as three forces were about to attack Yoshitoki, the emperor was unexpectedly defeated by his opponent. This led to the Emperor Go-Toba being exiled to the island of Oki. One of the two princes was exiled to the island of Sado, and the other to the county of Awa. Also, seven of the court nobles were summarily beheaded.
How is it that these people were defeated? As unexpectedly as a hawk seizes a pheasant or like a cat pouncing on and biting a mouse, a commoner becomes the sovereign of the realm. In fact, this is just the same as a cat devouring a mouse or a pheasant being snatched away by a hawk. Albeit it is only through the harmonious adjustment of body, speech, and mind, all these evils can be exorcised and be done with.
The so-called Highest of the Order and Enthroned Lord of the Tendai School Ji.en, the Shingon Elder of the Ninnaji Temple that had once been the retreat of the fifty-eighth Emperor Uda after he had taken sage-like orders, and also the Head of the Onjōji Temple, held sway over the seven and fifteen major temples of Nara where the wisdom, precepts, and practice of these three high dignitaries were like the sun and moon. Their profound and barely accessible esoteric teachings were centred around that of the three Universal Teachers Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō. This Dharma culminated in the esoteric teachings of the fifteen altars [which was the ritual of exorcism ordered by the retired Emperor Go-Toba for the defeat of the Kamakura Shogunate]. Bathed in rivulets of sweat and overburdened with mental stress, they carried out this ritual from the nineteenth day of the fifth month to the fourteenth day of the sixth month [of 1221 CE]. The conclusion of this great Dharma ceremony was observed both in the Ninnaji Temple in Nara and the Purple Imperial Hall [Shishinden] in Kyōto, which involved crossing the Realm of Japan three times.
These rituals started on the eighth day of the sixth month. On the fourteenth day, the army of the Shogunate was at Ujisata near Kyōto, broke into the capital, and took the three ex-emperors alive. The interior of the palace was set ablaze, and it burned to ashes within an hour. The three ex-emperors were exiled to the three outlying counties. Again, seven of the court nobles were summarily beheaded. But this was not all. The warriors of the regent forced their way into the royal apartments and set about tormenting the emperor’s most beloved younger brother’s child who was called Seitaka. In the end, they cut his head off. His Royal Highness, without giving it a second thought, decided to end his life, since both the child and the mother were dead. All the people who were relying on this exorcism, which comprised some tens of thousands of individuals, all died without even knowing why. Those few who did survive lived on in vain.
The prayers of the Royal Household started on the eighth day of the sixth month and ended on the fourteenth day of the same month. When you count the days in between, there are only seven full days. In the composition of the Dharma ritual referred to as the Fifteen Altars, there were the Gold Circle of the One Syllable (Bhrūm), the Four Heavenly Kings, the Ferocious Sovereign of Enlightenment Fudō the Unmoveable, the Ferocious Sovereign of Enlightenment Mahātejas of Awe-inspiring Virtue, The Dharma Wheel Turning Bodhisattva, the manifestation of Kannon who holds the wheel that symbolises a response to every prayer, the Ferocious Sovereign of Enlightenment Aizen Tainted with Amorous Desire, the eyes of the Buddha that see everything correctly, and the six ideograms for An Da Ri Han Da Ri which are associated with the Bodhisattva Kannon, the Ferocious Manifestation of the Vajra Prince (Vajrakumāra), the Venerated Stellar Kings, and the Ferocious Sovereign of Enlightenment Taigen, and the All-embracing Origin and the Guardian of the Sutras. The object of this Dharma ceremony was to bring down the enemies of both the sovereign and the realm, as well as to call up and compel the spirits (kon, animus) of the dead to be sent over to the Immaculate Terrain of Birushana.
Furthermore, those who were carrying out this ceremony were not unprofound people. There was the Enthroned Lord of the Tendai School Ji.en, the Highest of the Order Jōjūin with forty-one monks and a hundred or so monks to accompany them from the Eastern Temple, which was the main temple of the Shingon School, and the Ninnaji Temple in Nara. Those who took part in this ritual were a generation that suffered the same fate as the previous one. Then why was it that they were defeated?
For instance, without ever having had some gain, they had to face the humiliation of being wiped out completely. Nobody seems to know what the cause was of all this. As Lord of the realm, Yoshitoki set upon the people like a hawk swooping down onto a smaller bird. Although the emperor’s forces were beaten, it was something that had to be endured for one, two, ten, or twenty years. It all started on the fifteenth day of the fifth month. Then they were vanquished on the fourteenth day of the sixth month, which is hardly thirty days. This is because these powerful great lords do this sort of thing without realising it or even caring about it.
Nevertheless, with what little wisdom Nichiren possesses, he was able to ponder out the reason for all this. It was due to the perverse teachings of the Shingon School. Although it is the soured prejudiced view of one person, it becomes the affliction of all the counties. Although it may have only been one man carrying out the Shingon practices, still it was that that destroyed two counties, not to mention the lives of three hundred or so people. The lords of the realm have become the bitter enemies of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). Why is it they have not destroyed it?
As the years go by, such universally evil teachings will gradually bring about the downfall of the Shogunate, which in turn will involve the directors of religious affairs and the monks who assist in the rites of every temple. Since samurai that do not serve in the capital have always known little about what is correct or wrong in the teaching of the Dharma, they think that they only need to pay reverence to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the clerical community (sō, sangha). It goes without saying that, as the years gradually pass by and the samurai still have recourse to these [Shingon and other] practices, another nation will attack and do harm to our country and then try to destroy it. Not only the eight counties ruled by the Shogunate, but Mount Hiei, the Eastern Temple, the Onjōji Temple, as well as the enthroned lords and directors of temple affairs of the seven temples in Nara, due to their dealings with the Shogunate, will become like the Dharma Emperor of Oki (Go-Toba) and will decidedly turn into supporters of this universally evil teaching.
To become a lord of the realm means to be a part of the scheme of all the greater and lesser Brahma Deva Kings (Bonten), Taishaku (Indra), the sun and the moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings. So when somebody becomes a bitter enemy of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), the deva (ten),on account of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) and on account of their vow to uphold this sutra, should subdue and punish the offender. Hence, during the reign of the Emperor Antoku [1180-85 CE] who was the eighty-first in the line of sovereigns who were humankind, the Chancellor Kiyomori, for the sake of the Emperor and the Taira clan, went into sage-like orders. In order to bring Yoritomo Hyōenosuke into submission through exorcist rites, it was decided that Mount Hiei should adhere to his clan. Even though Kiyomori relied on this king of monasteries and his guardian household gods, the Emperor Antoku was drowned in the western sea. Myō.un was killed by Yoshinaka. The whole clan was destroyed in one sweep.
There was a second time this happened, and the present event would be the third. By ignoring the admonition of Nichiren, the rulers of the state will try to exorcize the Great Mongolian Empire through the evil teaching of the Shingon School, but Japan will be the one who is cursed instead. It is said that a malediction returns to the person who invoked it. In that case, rather than creating advantages in life through revenge, the Dharma Flower can be the unexcelled path to becoming a Buddha. The prayers and exorcisms of the present age are manifest evidence for the reading and reciting of the sutras of Sir Yoritomo Hyōenosuke.
I am aware of the principle that one should requite the kindness and effort of one’s parents and teacher. However, both my father and mother have passed away. But there was still my teacher the Religious Dōzen who had uneasy doubts about the lord of the manor’s attitude towards the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). I think that the Religious Dōzen was an unhappy person at heart, and on the outside he was detestably nasty. I did hear later on that he seemed to have a little faith in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), but I have doubts about it. I wonder how it was at the moment when death pressed upon him. It is not likely he went to hell. Again I do not think he has freed himself from the cycles of living and dying. Unfortunately he is most likely drifting somewhere in that space between dying and being reborn again.
At the time when the lord of the manor was full of rage, you, the Religious Jōken and the Religious Gijō were sent away from the Kiyosumidera Temple. In some way or another, you are people who obey and carry out the Buddha teaching for the benefit of others. Also, you will be able to shake off the fetters of the cycles of living and dying.
After the Buddha had explained and laid down what the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) should be, it would be after a period of two thousand two hundred and some twenty or so years, before it was revealed to anybody in the world of humankind. Both Tendai (T’ien T’ai) of China and Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi) of Japan were roughly acquainted with it, but they did not divulge it. Indeed, it is this day and age that is the proper time for its propagation.
Although what we see in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is that the Bodhisattva Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra), Muhengyō (Anantachārita), and the other bodhisattvas are to appear to do the propagating, as yet they have not been seen. Even though Nichiren is not one of these persons, he does have some understanding [of the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon)], so that until these bodhisattvas come forth, he can still effusively ramble on. Putting it roughly, this is what was brought about by “there being still a lot of envy and jealousy, not to mention after his passing over to nirvana”.
What I really wish and pray for is to be able to repay my parents, teacher, and all sentient beings, by means of this meritorious virtue. In order that you may progress in your understanding of what this is all about, I am sending you a Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) that I have written out for you. Cast away all other matters and earnestly pray in front of this Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) for your existence to come. As you know, I will talk about this again. Whatever happens, do use your discretion when it comes to other monks.
Nichiren [formal signature]
The Rocky Mountains seen from Kootenay Highway 93, British Columbia
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.