The Matter of Accepting and Undertaking
San Dai Hihō Shō
The eighth day of the fourth month of the fifth year of Kō.an , at 61 years of age
In the Twenty-First Chapter on the Reaches of the Mind of the Tathāgata that is in the seventh fascicle of the Dharma Flower Sutra, it says, “If we are to speak of essentials, then all the dharmas that are in possession of the Tathāgata, all the emancipated and unrestricted reaches of the mind of the Tathāgata, all the esoteric and essential repositories of the Tathāgata, all the deep and profound matters concerning the Tathāgata are all proclaimed, pointed out, revealed, and discussed in this sutra.” In the explanation, it says, “In the sutra of the discourse on essentials, the term ‘essentials’ is applied to four issues.”
Question: What in fact are the essential words of the Dharma that was expounded?
Answer: An explanation involves starting from the time that the Honoured One of the Shakyas attained to the way for the first time in his historical lifetime, to the teachings of the three receptacles, the interrelated teachings, and the particular teaching of the four flavours, up to the sitting where he established the broad clearance of the three vehicles, in order to reveal the one. Then, after generally clearing away the notion that he was first enlightened in his present lifetime, he showed that he had attained to the way in the primordial infinity of time, by summoning the hitherto hidden bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth. The proof of this attainment to the real aspect through self-cultivation and practice in the primordial infinity is the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon), the altar of the precept, and the five ideograms of the title and the theme that belong to the Sixteenth Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata.
The Lord of the Teaching Shākyamuni, without concealing any of these esoteric dharmas during the past, present, and future, did not even transmit them to Fugen or Monjushiri, let alone to any lesser beings. As a result, the way in which the ceremony of the exposition of these esoteric dharmas took place differs from the three teachings of the four flavours and the fourteen chapters of the temporary teachings of the Dharma Flower Sutra, because where it was possible to perform this ceremony could only be in the inherently infinite abode and terrain of silence and illumination.
The Lord of the Teaching who was able to perform this ceremony is the triple body that is inherently infinite and free from all karma, and those who are converted by this ceremony are also of the same fundamental substance. It was at this moment that the Tathāgata’s highly praised followers, from the primordial infinity with Jōgyō at the head of the Four Bodhisattvas, were summoned up all the way from the silence and illumination underneath the great earth and were entrusted with the assignment of the broad propagation of this teaching. Dōsen, the Teacher of Monastic Rules, said, “Because the Dharma is that which is grounded on the attainment in primordiality, it is the people who were enlightened in the primordial infinity who are those that belong to its teaching.”
Question: With regard to the gateway to the Dharma of those who were entrusted with its propagation, at what period after the Buddha’s passing over to nirvana should they broadly disseminate this teaching?
Answer: In the seventh fascicle in the Twenty-third Chapter on the Original Conduct of the Bodhisattva Sovereign Medicine (Yaku’ō, Bhaishajya-rāja), it says, “During the first five hundred years of the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō), there will be throughout the world of mankind a wide diffusion, without ever letting it come to an end.” If we with reverence conscientiously look at the sutric texts, we see that the period referred to after that Buddha’s passing over to nirvana lies beyond the two thousand years of the correct and formal phases of the Dharma. The fifth five hundred years are referred to as the period of “fighting and quarrelling having become firmly established and those of the white Dharma having sunk into nothingness”.
Question: Since the loving-kindness of all the Buddhas is like the moon in the sky and if the waters of circumstances and propensities are clear, then its life-transforming radiance is cast upon all the waters everywhere that are able to reflect it. How is it then that, out of the three eras of the correct, formal, and final phases of the Dharma, it is only in the final phase where the loving-kindness of the Buddha seems to be particularly apparent?
Answer: Even though the shining moon of all the Buddhas has harmonious beams that benefit all things and lighten up the darkness of the nine realms of dharmas, it cannot reflect its image upon the sludgy water of the person of incorrigible unbelief who slanders the Dharma.
Before people had the necessary capacities for the thousand years of the correct phase of the Dharma, there was only the individual vehicle and the teaching of the provisional universal vehicle to which they could really adapt. The thousand years of the formal phase were when the propensities of the people corresponded to the temporary gateway of the Dharma Flower Sutra.
Now, during the first five hundred years of the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō), people who have the propensity to comply with this teaching should put aside all the chapters of the Dharma Flower Sutra that come before the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, as well as the thirteen chapters of the original gateway that come after it, and only spread abroad the one Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata.
Even during the last five hundred years of the formal phase of the Dharma, the propensities of mankind were not suited to this one Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata which belongs to the original gateway, not to mention the first five hundred years of this period. How is it then that, even if the propensities for the correct phase of the Dharma may have been only the temporary gateway, its power to do good has faded away?
It is also the same with the original gateway. Having already entered into the final phase of the Dharma, the teachings that came before the Dharma Flower Sutra, as well as those of the temporary gateway, are no longer a means to be free from the cycle of living and dying. However, I must stress that the one Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata that belongs to the original gateway is the only fundamental Dharma that will liberate us from the rotation of lives and deaths. All the Buddhas in their guidance and redemption are entirely without discrimination.
In the three periods of the correct, formal, and final phases of the Dharma, which followed the Buddha’s passing over to nirvana, the assignments and affiliation of those who were converted by the original or temporary gateways are apparently clear. But the limitation of the one Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata as being for the benefit of the impure and evil people of the final phase does not seem to be very obvious in the sutric text. I would like to hear the passage in the sutra that reveals it. What do you have to say?
Answer: Just as you are forced to ask this question, then, when you hear the answer you must hold to a potent faith. It says in the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, which I have just referred to, “This excellent medicine that will do you good, I will now leave it here so that you should accept it and take it. You must not torment yourselves in any way that it cannot cure you.”
Question: The sutric text that particularises the benefits of the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata as being limited to the evil age of the final phase of the dharma is self evident, so I will not trouble you further on that point. Nevertheless, what do you have to say about the substance of the three esoteric dharmas?
Answer: In terms of the all-embracing concern of my own mind, it is the uttermost. Listen with undivided attention, and I will explain it in part.
The Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) of the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata was set up in a past, prior to a period of time that would amount to the grains of dust that go into the making of five hundred kalpas. The infinitely existing triple body independent of all karma, by having a deep and close relation with this terrain, is therefore the Shākyamuni, Lord of this Teaching.
In the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, it refers to “the esoteric and inaccessible reaches of the mind of the Tathāgata”. Also, in the Preliminary Study of the Dharma Flower, it says, “By putting a name to the one body not being separate from the three bodies, it would be ‘esoteric’. Then, by putting a name to the three bodies not being separate from the one body, it would be ‘inaccessible’. Again, to put a name to that which had never been expounded since time immemorial would be called ‘esoteric’. To put a name to what only the Buddha himself knows would be called ‘inaccessible’. The Buddha is equally in possession of the three bodies throughout the past, present, and future. Because this matter is esoteric, it is not transmitted in the other doctrines.”
The theme and title have two implications. One refers to the correct and formal phases of the Dharma, and the other to the final phase. During the correct phase, the theme and title that was chanted by the Bodhisattva Tenjin (Vasubandhu) and the Bodhisattva Nāgārjuna (Ryūju) was solely for their own practice, so we will not go into it. During the formal phase of the Dharma, the Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō that was recited by Nangaku and Tendai (T’ien T’ai) was also for themselves. However, its meaning was barely taught for the conversion of others. These instances are the theme and title of the practice in theory.
Having entered into the final phase of the Dharma, the title and theme that is chanted by Nichiren is different from that of former ages. It is the Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which comprises both practising for oneself and for the benefit and the conversion of others. It is the five ideograms for the five recondite aspects that go to prove the superiority of the sutra [through i. precisely explaining the title, ii. defining what it ultimately embodies, iii. making clear what it implies, iv. discussing its merits and range of influence, v. by deciding as to which teaching the sutra belongs].
When it comes to the altar of the precept, it will be when the laws of the state become subsidiary to those of the Dharma of the Buddha and the laws of the sovereign are in harmony with the Buddha teaching. The sovereign and his ministers will hold to the three esoterically inaccessible dharmas, so that King Utoku and the Bikkhu Kakutoku of ancient times will be transported to the future. Then, through a royal decree and an edict from the Patriarch, would they not then visit the most high and eminent slope, which resembles the pure land of Vulture Peak (Ryōjusen, Gridhrakūta), and establish the altar of the precept?
It is only a matter of waiting for when the time is ripe. [This is what is called the Dharma of the altar of the precept in practical terms]. Not only in India, China, and Japan, but throughout the world of mankind, there has never been a Dharma of the altar of the precept where people could remorsefully repent and clear away their sins. It will be an altar of the precept where such Universal Deva Kings as Bonten (Brahmā) and Taishaku will descend to earth and place their feet upon the mount where it stands.
After this altar has been set up, the altar of the precept in Enryakuji Temple will probably be a place that is of little advantage, since it is an altar of the temporary gateway and of the precept in principle only. Contrary to all expectation, the third and the fourth patriarchs Jikaku and Chishō, who came after the enthroned Lord and founder of the Tendai School on Mount Hiei, went against the teaching of their precursors Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi) and Gishin. Jikaku and Chishō evolved the ridiculous argument that both the theoretical and the practical were equally superior, thus holding in contempt the altar of the precept of the mountain of the school where it was taught. Through their slanderous and frivolous dissertations, the altar of the precept of Enryakuji Temple was left beyond the pale of their thoughts. It was to be the purely immaculate and unsullied altar of the precept of the middle way, but it would not be saying too much that the disciples had turned it into slush and mud.
What is there to do but lament? The monastery on Mount Mari (Malaya) in south India must be no more than tiles and stony rubble, and the groves of Sandalwood trees are reduced to a waste of thorns. Why should then those scholars who are able to see into the righteousness, the inappropriateness, the partiality, and the whole of a lifetime’s sage-like teaching wish at the present time to set foot on the mount of the altar of the precept in Enryakuji Temple?
Since this particular gateway to the Dharma points only to the principle, I shall make its significance absolutely clear. At the time prior to the two thousand or so years ago of the Buddha’s lifetime as the foremost leader of the bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth, I, Nichiren, solemnly received the orally transmitted instructions from the Universally Awakened World Honoured One. There is not the slightest discrepancy between what Nichiren practises today and what he accepted and undertook to serve on Spirit Vulture Peak (Ryōjusen, Gridhrakūta). Those are the all-embracing matters in the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, without any modification whatsoever.
Question: What is the precise textual proof for the one instant of thought containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen)?
Answer: First I should tell you that there are two textual proofs. In the Second Chapter on Expedient Means, it says, “The real aspect of all dharmas is that there is such an appearance.” The text continues until, “with the desire to open the perceptive Buddha wisdom in all sentient beings”. Is this not where the text refers to the fundamental principle of all sentient beings having been enlightened in the primordial infinity to the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen)?
In the Sixteenth Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, it says, “Since I really became a Buddha, it is already up to countless and boundless and hundreds of thousands of myriads of billions of nayuta asōgi kalpas ago.” This is the evidence for the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen) of the real substantiation of the Buddha prior to the primordial infinity.
Nichiren feels that it is now time for this gateway to the dharma to be widely propagated abroad. Even though all these ages I have been keeping it hidden away in my heart, if I do not write it down so as to leave it behind, then the disciples that come after will vilify me for being heartless and devoid of compassion. Since I am aware that later it would be difficult to make amends, I am leaving this teaching written out for you. When you have read this through, you must keep it secret and not let other people read it. And, needless to say, you are not to discuss it.
The sole purpose of all the Buddhas coming into this world is to expound the Dharma Flower Sutra. Because this is the sutra that includes these three universal esoteric dharmas, it is the one that delivers us from the cycles of living and dying. You must keep this teaching to yourself.
The eighth day of the fourth month of the fifth year of Kō.an 
Volcanic rock formation, Upolu Island, Western Samoa
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.