The Esoteric Oral Transmission
The 20th day of the second month of the ninth year of Bun.ei , at 51 years of age
The question is asked: With regard to plants and trees having their inherent Buddha natures made manifest, how does it apply to living beings and to that which is insentient?
The answer is given: Plants and trees having their inherent Buddha natures made manifest means that things that are insentient are also endowed with the Buddha nature and therefore are Buddhas in themselves.
The question is asked: In the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), are both sentient beings and that which is insentient capable of revealing their inherent Buddha nature?
The answer is given: Yes, by all means.
Then it is asked: What textual proof do you have?
The answer is given: It is Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō)
[Myōhō Renge Kyō is the sutra that is made up of the vertical threads that constitute the realms where existence takes place, into which is woven the filament of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect that is symbolised by the lotus flower, all of which becomes the entirety of existence.]
The Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) means that sentient beings can open up their inherent Buddha nature, whereas the lotus flower which symbolises the interdependence of cause and effect means that vegetation, insentient objects, and the environment can have their inherent Buddha nature made manifest as well. Sentiency means that all that is alive can open up its inherent Buddha nature. Insentience implies that all that is inanimate can have its inherent Buddha nature made manifest.
What is referred to as life and death having their inherent Buddha nature made manifest is the opening up of the Buddha nature of the animate and inanimate. This is why when people die, a stupa is raised and then a ceremony of offerings that nourish are performed over it, as well as the ritual for opening the eyes of Buddha images. This means that if the dead have their Buddha nature made manifest, then it must be the same for plants, trees, and the environment.
In the first fascicle of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly (Maka Shikan), it says, “Any materiality that is endowed with some kind of colour, so as to give it form or even any odour which can be perceived, is seen to belong to the middle way which spans both relativity and phenomenon.” Myōraku (Miao-lo) said, “Even though people can admit that materiality, colours, and odours are the reality of the middle way, the idea that plants and things that are inanimate are also endowed with the Buddha nature perplexes their ears and puzzles their minds.”
Out of which of the five colours is this single colour?
The five colours of blue, yellow, red, white, and black are each recognised as colours on their own. But the singleness is the Dharma nature that is explained here by Myōraku (Miao-lo) as the middle way between relativity and phenomenon [or the bridge-like instant between the appearance of something and the recognition of what it is]. The Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai) also said that there is nothing that is not the middle way. The singleness of the single colour or the single odour is not the singularity that stands in opposition to the numbers two or three, but points to the oneness of the middle way of the Dharma nature.
In the last analysis, there is nothing that is not endowed with the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas or the three thousand existential spaces. What this means is that all materiality, its colours and odours, etc., can have its Buddha nature made manifest. This is not different from the lotus flower with its interdependence of cause, concomitancy, and effect making its inherent Buddha nature manifest. Should we then exchange the words “lotus flower” for colour and odour, it would still be plants, trees, and the environment making their inherent Buddha nature manifest.
The Esoteric Oral Transmission states, “Both plants and trees can become Buddhas, by making their inherent Buddha nature manifest.” This means that by making their inherent Buddha nature manifest, they can become the Shākyamuni of the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata [i.e., the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon)]. This is referred to in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) as the extent of the reaches of the mind of the Tathāgata. It is said that the Dharma realm can only be the embodiment of the Tathāgata Shākyamuni [of the primordial infinity].
The revelation of the principle of the original terrain as the ultimate superlative means that alongside this primordial infinity there are uncountable sentient beings who, due to their unenlightenment, are endlessly suffering in the dream of living and dying. This is called the principle of the real suchness that is immutable in essence that belongs to the temporary gateway. But a gateway to the Dharma that is suspended in time and place implies impermanency and therefore entails death.
The revelation of the original terrain in practical terms is its own original source in the ever-present infinity in time [as well as being the integrated thesis of the triple Utterness].
[The triple Utterness refers to i) the Utterness of the original cause. Myōraku (Miao-lo) bases his explanation of this Utterness of original cause on the following phrase from the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, “‘Since I originally practised the path of a bodhisattva’ is a reference to time without an intermediary space. This is the path before (Shākyamuni) became a Buddha. By giving a name to this path, it becomes the origin.” The Utterness of the original cause is the recitation of the title and theme of the original gateway. ii) The Utterness of the original fruition is explained by Myōraku (Miao-lo) again from the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, as follows: “Since I became a Buddha at the other extremity of the enormous infinity of primordiality” is a proof of the Buddha being infinitely enlightened. In concrete terms, the Utterness of the original fruition is the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) of the original gateway. iii) The Utterness of the original abode and terrain is also explained by Myōraku (Miao-lo) from the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata as, “Ever since then, I have been in this existential realm that must be endured (shaba sakai, sahāloka), expounding the Dharma and converting others.” This points to the concept that whatever existential realm there may be, the Buddha is always present. Again, in practical terms the Utterness of abode and terrain is the altar of the precept of the original gateway.]
This revelation of the original terrain in practical terms is referred to as the fundamental of life, as well as the lotus flower which represents the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect. The revelation of the principle of the original terrain through its connection with temporality and death presides over that which is sentient, whereas the revelation of the original terrain in practical terms through its connection with the fundamental of life presides over insentience.
What sentient beings such as us have to depend on is the lotus flower that is inanimate, which is used to represent the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect. So the sound, voice, speech, and words of sentient beings such as us, in our capacity of being alive, make the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) become animate. Our bodies too are endowed with animate and inanimate qualities. Our hair and nails have no feeling, and if they are cut, it does not hurt. However, the rest of our bodies do have feeling, and it causes pain and suffering if they are is cut.
Our bodies that are both sentient and insentient are also endowed with the two dharmas of cause and fruition in the ten such qualities. The three existential spaces of i) the existential space of sentient beings, ii) the existential space of the five aggregates that darken our awareness of the original enlightenment, and iii) the existential space of abode and terrain – all three of these existential spaces are common to both the animate and inanimate. It is the mandala that is kneaded and soaked in the gateway to the Dharma of the one instant of thought containing three thousand existential spaces that is quite unknown, even in the dreams of the scholars of the present age, whose learning is incomplete.
Tendai (T’ien T’ai), Myōraku (Miao-lo), and Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi) understood this teaching, but they did not propagate it. They played down and de-emphasised the doctrine of the single colour and the single odour, whispering that it would confound the ears and shatter the minds of those who were attached to the provisional teachings. Instead, they advocated that people should adhere to the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō) with its all-inclusive and direct meditation of the desistance from troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha) in order to see clearly. Therefore, by making manifest the Buddha nature of plants and trees means that those who have died can have their Buddha natures made manifest also.
These gateways to the Dharma are known to a few people only. What this amounts to is that, through not knowing the implications of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), other gateways to the Dharma can become misleading. On all accounts, these teachings must not be forgotten or lost.
With awe and respect,
The 20th day of the second month 
A reply to the Venerable Sairen
The foothills of the Rocky Mountains, near Morley, Alberta
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.