Question 20 – The questioner asserts again that Nichiren has not yet provided proof of the realm of Buddha in our minds.
The point of the question is whether Buddhahood is something acquired or whether it is something already an intrinsic aspect of our selves. If it is acquired, then the Buddha is separate from us. If it is intrinsic, on the other hand, then out thoughts, words and actions are already the path of Buddhahood.
Nichiren first quotes from the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra. The following is the full context of the quote, with the actual passage quoted in bold:
“Good men, the seventh inconceivable benefit and power of this sutra is this: If good men or good women, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, are able to hear this sutra and rejoice and put faith and hope in it, greeting it as something rare; if they accept, uphold, read, recite, copy, explain, preach, and practice it as it directs, conceiving a desire for enlightenment, cultivating good roots, nurturing minds of great compassion, and desiring to save all living beings from their sufferings, then although they have not yet been able to practice the six paramitas, the six paramitas will of themselves appear before them. In their present bodies they will be able to gain the truth of birthlessness, their earthly desires and their sufferings of birth and death will in one moment be cast off and destroyed, and they will ascend to the seventh stage of the bodhisattva.
“Suppose, for example, there is a stalwart hero who wipes out the king’s enemies. Once these enemies have been destroyed, the king rejoices greatly and takes half of his kingdom and presents it all to the hero as a fief. The good men and good women who uphold this sutra will be similar to this. They will be the bravest and most heroic of all practitioners. And though they do not seek for them, the six paramitas, those treasures of the Dharma, will come to them naturally. Their enemies, birth and death, will of themselves be scattered and destroyed, and they will be enlightened to the truth of birthlessness, which is like receiving half the buddha land in fief and its treasures as a gift to enjoy in tranquillity.
“Good men, this is called the seventh benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.
Next he quotes the Lotus Sutra:
all press their palms and with reverent minds
wish to hear the teaching of perfect endowment.
The full context of this line is the discourse between Shariputra and the Buddha in the Second Chapter. The Buddha has just praised his awakening and told the assembly they can’t understand his wisdom. The assembly is perplexed, and Shariputra speaking on their behalf explains this unease,asking the Buddha to teach this “perfect endowment”. The Buddha responds that he can’t because no one will understand and will instead fall into doubt. Shariputra persists, asking three times, the Buddha agrees, but before he can start, 5000 people in the assembly get up and leave. The Buddha lets them go, and then begins to explain that all the Buddhas teach with the same purpose – even though their teachings may be various and different according to circumstances and conditions.
Next he quotes the Nirvana Sutra, a commentary on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra by Nagarjuna, and several other works, including Zhiyi Tiantai’s Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, on the meaning of the word “sad” as in the Sanskrit title of the Lotus Sutra – Saddharma Pundarika Sutra. Sad is said to connote the number six which implies Perfection. Nichiren explains the significance, “in essence they mean that Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo. If we believe in these five characters, we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.” The point here is that the Lotus Sutra, according to its title, expounds the complete and perfect teaching of the Buddha.
If one thinks that the Lotus Sutra is just a book, that is not incorrect, but it also is not a complete understanding. The Lotus Sutra is a particular discourse in which the Buddha directly expresses his awakening without expedients. It is not communicated in terms that can be intellectually understood, but since the Buddha’s awakening is beyond words, so is its transmission. The book is one of the media by which we are exposed to awakening. The Lotus Sutra is a book, but itis not just this particular book we call the Lotus Sutra. In other places this sutra is expounded in millions upon millions of volumes. Even in India, Nichiren suggested that it had been recorded in several versions, some longer and some shorter than the work Kumarajiva translated. There are also several Chinese translations. Nichiren even surmised that it might be the same as the Vairocana Sutra – which is a very different discourse in literal terms. In other places, the Lotus may only be a few lines long – like the Heart Sutra (The Heart Sutra is one text in a genre of Sutras called Prajna Paramita. Some of these are very long, some not so long. They all are considered, however, to expound on the same wisdom. The difference is in their manner of expression.) The Lotus Sutra that Nichiren received and transmitted as Bodhisattva Visistacaritra was five characters – 妙法蓮華経 Myoho Renge Kyo.
In the Lotus Schools, the words of the Sutra themselves are understood to be Buddhas. There are copies of the Lotus Sutra in Japan in which each character is rendered within an image of a stupa, or next to pictures of Buddhas, or on Lotus thrones.
Along these lines, Zhiyi taught a repentance ritual based on the Lotus Sutra, and instead of enshrining a Buddha statue, advised simply enshrining a copy of the sutra since the sutra itself is the body of the Buddha.
“In a suitably quiet and secluded place, one prepares and adorns a special room to be the place for the Bodhimandala. In a special place one is seated at a proper distance from the Bodhimandala. In the Bodhimandala, placed well like a high throne, one places a single copy of the Lotus Sutra. It is not necessary to place any other images, sarira [relics], or other Sutras with it. One only enshrines the Lotus Sutra. One may place banners, canopies, and various other offerings around it.”
The Lotus Sutra states,
“Medicine King, in any place whatsoever where this sutra is preached, where it is read, where it is recited, where it is copied, or where a roll of it exists, in all such places there should be erected stupas made of the seven kinds of gems, and they should be made very high and broad and well adorned. There is no need to enshrine the relics of the Buddha there. Why? Because in these stupas the entire body of the thus come one will already be present. All kinds of flowers, incense, necklaces, silken canopies, streamers and banners, music and hymns should be offered as alms to these stupas and they should be accorded reverence, honor, and praise. If when people see these stupas they bow in obeisance and offer alms, then you should know that these people have all drawn near to supreme perfect enlightenment.”
The point is, the Lotus Sutra is the Buddha. When you read its words, you are directly encountering the Buddha.
This passage from Nichiren’s work called The Doctrine of Three Thousand Realms is long, but relevant here:
[W]hen, through the Lotus Sutra, we meditate moment by moment on the meaning of threefold contemplation in a single mind and the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, then we come to realize that we ourselves are Thus Come Ones of original enlightenment. Then the clouds of ignorance part and the moon of the essential nature of phenomena shines forth. We wake from dreams of delusion and the round moon of original enlightenment is seen in all its brilliance. We see that this fleshly form received in birth from our parents, this body bound by earthly desires, is none other than the Thus Come One who has existed always and is ever-abiding.
This is what is called the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form, the realization that earthly desires are none other than enlightenment and that the sufferings of birth and death are none other than nirvana.
At this time when we gaze at the phenomenal world, we see that all things conform to the single principle of the Middle Way, and that the Buddha and living beings are one. This is what T’ien-t’ai means when he writes in his commentary, “There is not one color or one fragrance that is not the Middle Way.”
At this time we see that all the worlds of the ten directions are the Pure Land of Tranquil Light. Where, then, can one find the pure lands of Amida Buddha or the Buddha Medicine Master? This is what the Lotus Sutra means when it says, “These phenomena are part of an abiding Dharma, [and] the characteristics of the world are constantly abiding.”
We may wonder whether, without reciting the sutra, it is possible simply through the meditation of the mind-ground alone to attain Buddhahood. The fact is that the meditation on three thousand realms in a single moment of life and the method of meditation known as threefold contemplation in a single mind are contained within the five characters Myoho-renge-kyo. And these five characters, Myoho-renge-kyo, are also contained within the single life of each of us. Thus T’ien-t’ai’s commentary states: “This Myoho-renge-kyo represents the depths of the secret storehouse of the original state, the enlightenment attained by the Thus Come Ones of the three existences.”
When we chant this Myoho-renge-kyo, the Buddha of original enlightenment present in our lives becomes manifest. Our bodies and minds are comparable to the storehouse of the teachings, and the word myō is comparable to the seal [that permits the opening of the storehouse]. Thus the commentary of T’ien-t’ai states: “To reveal the depths of the secret storehouse—this is called myō, or wonderful. To define the proper relationship between the provisional and the true—this is termed hō, or the Dharma. To point to the original enlightenment attained by the Buddha in the far distant past—this is compared to ren, or lotus. To clarify the perfect way of the non-duality of provisional and true—this is compared to ge, or blossom. The voice carries out the work of the Buddha, and this is called kyō, or sutra.”
And the commentary also states: “Myō is a term used to praise the Dharma that is beyond ordinary comprehension. Myō is also the Dharma of the Ten Worlds and the ten factors, the Dharma that is both provisional and true.”
Chanting the daimoku, or title, of the Lotus Sutra is the same as carrying out meditation. Ignorant persons may find this difficult to believe. But the second volume of Great Concentration and Insight by T’ien-t’ai has a passage “regarding recitation and silence” in which the word “recitation” refers to recitation of the Lotus Sutra and “silence” to the practice of meditation or contemplation. And again, in the first volume of his Meaning of the Four Teachings, T’ien-t’ai states: “Not only [are such practices as recitation] not a needless waste of effort, they are essential in enabling one to grasp the principle involved.”
The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai was a reincarnation of the bodhisattva Medicine King, and in his commentaries he discussed the merits of reciting the sutra and those of meditation. To begin with, in his commentaries he defined four guidelines for interpreting the words and phrases of the Lotus Sutra, namely, causes and conditions, correlated teachings, theoretical and essential teachings, and observation of the mind. But persons who do not understand the importance of these four types of interpretation are likely to apply only one type of interpretation, turning all their attention to the way in which the passage relates to the theoretical and essential teachings, or turning all their attention to how it relates to observation of the mind.
In the Lotus Sutra, we find the doctrine directly stated, we find it taught through similes, and we find it taught through an explanation of causes and conditions in the past. In passages where the doctrine is directly stated, the original purpose for which the Buddhas appear in the world is set forth, the direct path by which all living beings can attain Buddhahood. And daimoku represents the cause and condition that permits not only us but all living beings to proceed directly to the place of enlightenment.
Therefore T’ien-t’ai in the first volume of his Profound Meaning states: “All the little practices of goodness are gathered together, and one finds one’s destination in the breadth and magnitude of the one vehicle.” By “breadth and magnitude” he means that all living beings without exception shall be guided to this goal.
Although this goal may be set forth as the original purpose for which one person, Shakyamuni, made his appearance in the world, yet all beings in the stage of near-perfect enlightenment and below should look up to it and should have faith in this sutra, the Lotus. For this sutra itself is the original purpose for which the Buddhas appear in the world…
Those who are knowledgeable may practice both sutra recitation and meditation. Those uninformed may simply chant the daimoku, for in doing so they will be abiding by the principle of the sutra.
This Myoho-renge-kyo is a term designating the essential nature of our minds, or, more generally speaking, the essential nature of the minds of all living beings, the eight-petaled white lotus blossom. The words of the Buddha himself teach us this. From time without beginning until the present, these bodies of ours have transmigrated through the realm of birth and death, in a state of delusion as to the essential nature of the mind that is within these bodies. But now that we have encountered the Lotus Sutra and chant the daimoku that represents the Thus Come Oneof original enlightenment, who possesses the three bodies in a single body, the Thus Come One becomes manifest. In our present existence we achieve the inner realization and attainment of Buddhahood that is known as the attainment of Buddhahood in our present form.
And when we die, our bodies will emit a glow. This is what is known as the outward-directed activity associated with the attainment of Buddhahood. This is what the Lotus Sutra means when it says, “Then in a future existence they will be able to become Buddhas.”
“When for the sake of brevity one mentions only the daimoku, or title, the entire sutra is by implication included therein.” This means that one recitation of the daimoku is equivalent to one recitation of the whole sutra.
When we chant Myoho-renge-kyo, the Thus Come One of the essential nature of our minds becomes manifest, and the sounds that reach the ears of others wipe out their offenses accumulated over countless asamkhya kalpas. When they respond with joy even for a moment, they attain Buddhahood in their present form. Even though they may not believe this, the seed has been planted, it is maturing, and through it they will invariably attain Buddhahood.
The Great Teacher Miao-lo states: “Whether one accepts or rejects the teachings, they have entered one’s ear and one has thus established a bond with them. And then, though one may comply with them or go against them, in the end one will because of this bond be able to achieve liberation.”
And I, Nichiren, declare that these words, “whether one accepts or rejects,” “though one may comply with them or go against them,” constitute a passage worthy to be engraved on the heart. This is what the Lotus Sutra means when it says, “If there are those who hear the Dharma, [then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood].” Here it speaks of those “who hear the Dharma.” But if it were referring to those who attain Buddhahood through meditation, it would say, “If there are those who meditate on the Dharma.”
Nichiren continues to explain this mutual inclusion of the ten worlds, particularly the world of Buddhahood in us. He demonstrates this teaching, quoting the sutra. Particularly, he quotes the second chapter:
Shariputra, you should know
that at the start I took a vow,
hoping to make all persons
equal to me, without any distinction between us,
and what I long ago hoped for
has now been fulfilled.
I have converted all living beings
and caused them all to enter the buddha way.
Commenting on this, Nichiren wrote, “Shakyamuni Buddha, who has attained perfect enlightenment, is our own flesh and blood. His practices and the resulting virtues are our bones and marrow.”
Concluding the discussion, Nichiren quotes Zhanran, the Great Teacher Miao-lo:
“You should understand that one’s life and its environment at a single moment encompass the three thousand realms. Therefore, when one attains the Buddha way, one puts oneself in accord with this fundamental principle, and one’s body and mind at a single moment pervade the entire realm of phenomena.”