Thesis on the Real Aspect of All Dharmas
The 17th day of the fifth month of the tenth year of Bun.ei , at 52 years of age
The question is asked: In the Second Chapter on Expedient Means in the first fascicle of the Dharma Flower Sutra, it says, “The real aspect of all dharmas can only be exhaustively deliberated upon between one Buddha and another. This reality is said to consist of such an appearance, such an inner nature, such a consistency or substance, such possibilities or strength, such an action or whatever is happening, such a cause, such karmic relationships or circumstances. Then, from such an appearance to such a requital, all these nine such qualities (nyoze) are equally the ultimate dimension of the real aspect of all dharmas.” What is the meaning of this sutric text?
The answer given is that the actual fundamental substance of the subjectivities and the dependent environments of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas from hell at the bottom, ascending to the Buddha realm at the top – all of them without leaving a single dharma out – is what the text of the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō) is concerned with. If there is a karmic requital on the dependent environment, then there is certainly a corresponding karmic requital on its subjectivity. This is explained by, “The karmic requital on the dependent environment and the karmic requital on its subjectivity are always the affirmation of life or Myōhō Renge Kyō, which are the threads of the sutra that run lengthwise, through which the simultaneousness of the cause and effect of the entirety of existence is woven.”
It is also explained as, “The real aspect must imply all dharmas. All dharmas must imply the ten such qualities. The ten such qualities must imply the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas. And the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas have to have a subjective body and an environmental terrain.”
It also says, “The subjectivity and its dependent environment of the hell of incessant suffering are completely present in the minds of the supremely sage-like, and likewise the person and the environmental terrain of such a Guardian Deva King of the North as the Buddha of Universal Sunlight (Birushana, Vaishravana,) does not go beyond the bounds of the universe that is contained in the instant of mind of ordinary people.”
These explanations are understandably clear, who would have any doubts about them? Therefore the configuration of the realms of dharmas differs in no way from the five ideograms for Myōhō Renge Kyō.
Even when the two Buddhas, Tahō and Shākyamuni, who, as functions of the Buddha wisdom [which is represented by Shākyamuni] and its objective reality [represented by Tahō], bestowed the benefit of the application of the five ideograms Myōhō Renge Kyō, they manifested it in its practical aspect as the two Buddhas in the stupa made of precious materials, nodding to each other in assent.
No one other than Nichiren could have revealed such gateways to the Dharma. Tendai (T’ien T’ai), Myōraku (Miao-lo), and Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi) knew them in their hearts but never spoke about them aloud. Instead, they kept them hidden within the innermost recesses of their minds. There is a reason for this. Since they had not been entrusted with this particular assignment, the time had not yet come, and also they were not the disciples of the Buddha of the primordial infinity.
From among the bodhisattvas who spring up from the earth, no one except the principal leaders of the chant, such as the Bodhisattvas Jōgyō and Muhengyō, can appear during the first five hundred years of the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō), in order to propagate the five ideograms for Myōhō Renge Kyō, of the fundamental substance of the Dharma, or reveal the two Buddhas sitting next to each other [on both sides of the seven ideograms for Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō], carrying out the ceremony inside the stupa made of precious materials. This is on account of it being none other than a concrete revelation of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen) of the Sixteenth Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata that belongs to the original gateway. [This is the essence of the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon).]
Even though the two Buddhas Shākyamuni and Tahō are carrying out their roles of Buddhas who are suspended in time and place, still it is the Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō that is really the original Buddha. This ceremony is referred to in the Dharma Flower Sutra as, “the esoterically inaccessible extent of the reaches of the mind of the Tathāgata”. The Tathāgata’s esoteric inaccessibility refers to the Dharma (middle way), the reward (relativity), and the corresponding (phenomenon) bodies of the fundamental substance. This is the original Buddha.
However, the extent of the reaches of the mind of the Tathāgata are what the Dharma, reward, and corresponding bodies can do within the limits of place and temporality and therefore are the Buddhas suspended in time and place. Albeit it is thought that Shākyamuni was endowed with the three virtues of lord, parent, and teacher for the sake of sentient beings such as us, this is not the case. Instead, it was ordinary people who invested the Buddha with these three virtues.
It is for this reason that Tendai’s (T’ien T’ai) explanation for the word Tathāgata is defined as, “The Tathāgata is the general title for all the Buddhas of the ten directions and of the past, present, and future, the two Buddhas Shākyamuni and Tahō, the three Buddhas of the Dharma, reward, and corresponding entities, the original Buddha, and the Buddhas who are suspended in time and place.” In this explanation, the original Buddha is an ordinary person, whereas the person whom we refer to as ‘the Buddha’ is a Buddha who is suspended in time and place.
Nonetheless, the difference between being deluded or being enlightened is in accordance with the distinction between a sentient being and a Buddha. But what sentient beings are ignorant of is the fact that they too have a Dharma body, a reward body, and a corresponding body, of which all three are endowed with the fundamental substance of the original Buddha [that is the triple body devoid of all karma] and also the ability to carry out its functions.
This is why when we put all dharmas and the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas together we are talking about the real aspect. The real aspect is an alternative name for Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō) [this could be understood as the threads of (the sutra) that run lengthwise, through which the simultaneousness of the cause and effect (Lotus Flower) of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) are woven], which is what all dharmas are.
Hell, when shown to be in the form of hell, then that is its real aspect. But when it turns into the realm of hungry demons, it is no longer in its real form. The Buddha is seen as the shape of a Buddha image and the common mortal in the form of an ordinary human being. The actual fundamental substance of all existence that appears to us is what the actual fundamental substance of Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō), really is. This is what is referred to as the real aspect of all dharmas. “The recondite intrinsicality of the real aspect is the inherently and infinitely existing Myōhō Renge Kyō.” The significance of this explanation implies that these famous words, ‘the real aspect’, dominate the teachings that refer to events in time and place, but the inherently and infinitely existing Myōhō Renge Kyō is a gateway to the Dharma superior to that of the original gateway. What I ask of you is to please ponder very thoroughly over these explanations in the depths of your mind.
Nichiren, being born in the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō), was the first to go ahead and roughly spread abroad the teaching of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma), which was meant to be propagated by the Bodhisattva Jōgyō, and also to have what must be the privilege of drawing up the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon), that reveals Shākyamuni as the primordial Buddha of the Sixteenth Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata of the original gateway, along with the Buddha Tahō who sprang up from the earth at the time of the Eleventh Chapter on Seeing the Vision of the Stupa made of Precious Materials of the temporary doctrine. Furthermore, I was also the first to reverently show, by setting out in order on the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon), the bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth, at the time of the Fifteenth Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up Out of the Earth. My appointed lot is something splendid. However much they may hate Nichiren, how can they possibly measure up to his inner substantiation?
Be that as it may, still the sin of having Nichiren exiled on this island is one I do not think will be expiated even after boundless kalpas. In the Third Chapter on Similes and Parables, it says this, “If we were to discuss this sin until the kalpa expires, it would not be the end of the matter.” On the other hand, should one make offerings to Nichiren or become his disciple and supporter, then, even in terms of the wisdom of the Buddha, this merit could not exhaustively be measured. In the Twenty-Third Chapter on the Bodhisattva Sovereign Medicine (Yaku’ ō, Bhaishajya-rāja) in the Dharma Flower Sutra, it says, “Even if its extent were to be fathomed according to the Buddha’s wisdom, it would be without bounds.”
Nichiren alone is the forerunner of the bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth, even though it is improbable that he is entered among their numbers. But should we suppose that Nichiren was listed in the count of the bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth, then how can it be that the disciples and supporters of Nichiren are not rated among those bodhisattvas? In the Tenth Chapter on the Dharma as a Teacher in the Dharma Flower Sutra, it says, “Should someone painstakingly and in private explain to another individual just one phrase of the Dharma Flower Sutra, then without doubt it must be known that this person is indeed the envoy of the Tathāgata and has been dispatched by him in order to carry out the Tathāgata’s work.” How could this possibly refer to anyone else?
For all that, when people praise me beyond measure, anything whatsoever that my will desires to bring about can be made to happen. This indeed is what springs from words of praise. Being born during the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni, the practitioners who are to spread abroad the Dharma Flower Sutra will, on account of the three kinds of enemy, be exiled and even sentenced to death. [The three kinds of enemy are i. those lay people practically ignorant of everything concerning the Buddha teaching, who denigrate those who do the practices of the Dharma Flower Sutra and attack them in various manners, or ii. arrogant monks who claim to be superior or even enlightened who vilify the people that do the practices of the Buddha teaching seriously, or even iii. monks and other religious leaders who, fearing the loss of their established reputations and fortunes, incite the authorities in power to persecute those who follow the practices of the Dharma Flower Sutra.]
Yet, the Buddha Shākyamuni [that is to say, the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon)] will give protection like a garment to those who insist on its propagation. All the deva (ten) will make offerings to them, place them on their shoulders, and carry them on their backs. By being people with great roots of good, they will have to be great teachers and guides for the sake of all sentient beings. Accordingly, they will be praised by the Buddha Shākyamuni, the Buddha Tahō, all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, the seven ranks of Heavenly Divinities, and the five ranks of Earthly Divinities, Mother Numen of the Demonic Children (Kishimojin, Hārītī) and her cannibalistic demon daughters (rasatsu, rakshasi) [of Kishimojin], the Four Heavenly Guardians of the Universe, the Deva Kings Bonten (Brahmā) and Taishaku (Indra), the Dharma King Emma, the spirits of the waters, the spirits of the wind, the spirits of the mountains, the spirits of the sea, the Buddha of Universal Sunlight (Tathāgata Dainichi), the Bodhisattva Universally Worthy (Fugen, Samantabhadra) and the Bodhisattva Mañjushrī (Monjushiri), the deva of the sun, the moon, and all those who are venerated, who make it possible for the practitioner of the Dharma Flower Sutra to endure countless hardships.
On being commended, one can risk personal harm without even looking back. And, when adversely criticised, one unwittingly may bring about one’s own damnation. Such behaviour is the implicate karma of the common mortal.
Whatever happens, you must now exert a mind of faith as a practitioner of the Dharma Flower Sutra and keep on being a disciple of Nichiren. If you are in agreement with Nichiren, then would you not be a bodhisattva who sprang up from the earth? Then, if you have decided that you are a bodhisattva who sprang up from the earth, how can you doubt that you were a disciple of the Shākyamuni of the primordial infinity? This is what it says in the Fifteenth Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up out of the Earth in the Dharma Flower Sutra, “Ever since the primordial infinity I have been teaching and converting these people.”
In the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō), there should be no discrimination between the men and women who are to spread abroad the five ideograms for Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma, for if they were not all the manifestations of the bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth, then the theme and the title would be hard to recite.
At first, only Nichiren chanted Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, but then two or three people followed and recited and transmitted it to others. Moreover, it will also be the same way in the future. How can this not be the meaning of springing up from the earth?
Besides, at the time of the broad propagation, humankind as a whole will recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō [the consecration and founding of one’s life on (Namu) the eternity of the threads that run lengthwise (sutra), through which the simultaneousness of the cause and effect (Lotus Flower) of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) is woven], as surely as the whole earth is an unmissable target for an arrow.
Whatever happens, by setting your reputation in the Dharma Flower Sutra, you have to dedicate the whole of yourself to it. When the two Buddhas, the Buddha Shākyamuni and the Buddha Tahō, surrounded by all the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions, in the stupa made of precious materials in the emptiness without space, nodded to each other, it was because what they agreed upon could have been no other concern, but solely to make the teaching they had established last in eternity, throughout the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō).
The moment the Buddha Tahō had courteously shared half the throne with the Tathāgata Shākyamuni, the standard of the Myōhō Renge Kyō was already exposed to view. Then, Shākyamuni and Tahō, as the two great Buddha generals, made their decision. How could there be any deception about it? After all is said and done, it was a dialogue on how we sentient beings could be made to open up our inherent Buddha nature.
Even though Nichiren was not present at that gathering, on looking at the sutric text, there is absolutely nothing obscure about it. Yet, had I even been at that ceremony, by being an ordinary human being, I cannot know the past. Looking at the present, I am the practitioner of the Dharma Flower Sutra, and, furthermore, in the future it is certain that I will arrive at the site of the path of enlightenment. By this we can infer that I could have been at the ceremony in the spaceless void. The past, present, and future cannot be separated from each other.
Because I keep on thinking this way, even though I am an exile, I feel a gladness and joy that cannot be measured. There are tears of happiness, as well as tears for things that are hard to bear. Tears are something that communicates both the good and the bad. A thousand arhats, people who had attained the supreme reward of the individual vehicle, shed their tears as they recalled to mind things about the Buddha. The Bodhisattva Mañjushrī (Monjushiri) was in tears as he recited Myōhō Renge Kyō, and, out of those thousand arhats, the Honoured One Anan (Ānanda) was crying as he replied, “Thus I heard.” Then the remaining nine hundred and ninety-nine arhats, using their tears as water for their ink slabs, wrote down Myōhō Renge Kyō.
Nichiren is now feeling exactly the same emotion. I have become the person that I am on account of my propagation of the seven ideograms for Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, because what I heard was this particular Myōhō Renge Kyō that was left by the Buddha Shākyamuni and the Buddha Tahō for the sake of all the sentient beings of the world of humankind in the times to come.
There are tears as I ponder over my enormous difficulties, and, as I think of the bliss of opening up my inherent Buddha nature in the future, the tears cannot be stopped. Birds and insects cry, but they do not shed tears. Nichiren does not cry, but the tears are incessant. These tears are not for mundane affairs, but solely on account of the Dharma Flower Sutra. Since it is so, they must be tears of the nectar of immortality.
In the Sutra on the Buddha’s passing over to Nirvana, it says that the tears shed at the separation and parting of all the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, wives and children, and relatives and friends would be more than all the water in the four great seas, but it seems that not a drop was shed for the sake of the Buddha Dharma. One becomes a practitioner of the Dharma Flower Sutra, due to an entrenched karmic habit. In the same way, it is due to karmic circumstances that some trees of the same kind are made into Buddha images. And, again, the reason why some Buddhas are suspended in time and place is also due to their entrenched karmic relationships.
In this letter Nichiren has written out dharma gateways of universal concern. Look into them, understand them thoroughly, and receive them into your heart. Have faith in the foremost Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) of the world of humankind. Pay single-minded attention, and fortify your mind of faith, so that you receive the protection of Shākyamuni, Tahō, and all the Buddha emanations of the ten directions. You must apply yourself to the two paths of practice and study. Should practice and study die out, then the Buddha Dharma would no longer exist.
Do as I do, by teaching and converting others. Practice and study come about through a mind of faith. If you have the strength, you must tell others about the single ideogram “myō” in the one only title. Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō.
With awe and respect,
The 17th day of the fifth month
A Reply to the Venerable Sairen
I will follow by saying that Nichiren has on previous occasions written out and passed on various gateways to the dharma that he has inherited. Those that are mentioned in this letter are of especial universal concern. Is there not a wonderful agreement between us? Are you not a manifestation of one of the Four Bodhisattvas who were headed by the Bodhisattva Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra), whose number was sixty thousand times the amount of grains of sand of the Ganges? Certainly there is a reason.
Generally speaking, I have passed on to you dharma gateways that apply to the person of Nichiren. Would you not suppose that Nichiren was of the following of the bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth, whose number was sixty thousand times the grains of sand in the Ganges?
I have been reciting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, because of my desire to lead all the men and women of the world of humankind onto the path of enlightenment. Does it not say in the Fifteenth Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up out of the Earth in the Dharma Flower Sutra, “The first is named Bodhisattva Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra)?” Then the text continues, until, “the teachers and guides of the chant”. As a matter of fact, it is the sequel of an entrenched karmic relationship that made you my disciple.
Keep this letter secret and with the greatest of care. I have written down the dharma gateways of my own substantiation. I will end here.
Columbia Valley view from the ski hill at Fairmont Hot Springs, BC
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.