Why we suffer all manner of retributions as did Nichiren
"Question: How can you be certain that the exiles and sentences of death imposed on you are the result of karma created in the past?
Answer: A bronze mirror will reflect color and form. The First Emperor of the Ch’in dynasty had a lie-detecting mirror that would reveal offenses committed in this present life. The mirror of the Buddha’s Law makes clear the causal actions committed in the past. The Parinirvāna Sutra states: “Good man, because people committed countless offenses and accumulated much evil karma in the past, they must expect to suffer retribution for everything they have done. They may be despised, cursed with an ugly appearance, be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished and lowly family or one with erroneous views, or be persecuted by their sovereign. They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions. It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that they can diminish in this lifetime their suffering and retribution.”
This sutra passage and my own experience tally exactly. By now all the doubts that I have raised earlier should be dispelled, and thousands of difficulties are nothing to me. Let me show you phrase by phrase how the text applies to me. “They may be despised,” or, as the Lotus Sutra says, people will “despise, hate, envy, or bear grudges against them”—and in exactly that manner I have been treated with contempt and arrogance for over twenty years. “They may be cursed with an ugly appearance,” “They may be poorly clad”—these too apply to me. “They may be poorly fed”—that applies to me. “They may seek wealth in vain”—that applies tome. “They may be born to an impoverished and lowly family”—that applies to me. “They may be persecuted by their sovereign”—can there be any doubt that the passage applies to me? The Lotus Sutra says, “Again and again we will be banished,” and the passage from the Parinirvāna Sutra says, “They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions.” [These passages also apply to me.]
The passage also says, “It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that they can diminish in this lifetime their suffering and retribution.” The fifth volume of Great Concentration and Insight has this to say on the subject: “The feeble merits produced by a mind only half intent on the practice cannot alter [the realm of karma]. But if one carries out the practice of concentration and insight so as to observe ‘health’ and ‘illness,’ then one can alter the cycle of birth and death [in the realm of karma].” It also says, “[As practice progresses and understanding grows], the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere.”
From the beginningless past I have been born countless times as an evil ruler who deprived the votaries of the Lotus Sutra of their robes and rations, their fields and crops, much as the people of Japan in the present day go about destroying the temples dedicated to the Lotus Sutra. In addition, countless times I cut off the heads of the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. Some of these grave offenses I have already paid for, but there must be some that are not paid for yet. Even if I seem to have paid for them all, there are still ill effects that remain. When the time comes for me to transcend the sufferings of birth and death, it will be only after I have completely freed myself from these grave offenses. My merits are insignificant, but these offenses are grave.
If I practiced the teachings of the provisional sutras, then these retributions for my past grave offenses would not appear. When iron is heated, if it is not strenuously forged, the impurities in it will not become apparent. Only when it is subjected to the tempering process again and again will the flaws appear. When pressing hemp seeds, if one does not press very hard, one will not get much oil from them. Likewise, when I vigorously berate those throughout the country who slander the Law, I meet with great difficulties. It must be that my actions in defending the Law in this present life are calling forth retributions for the grave offenses of my past. If iron does not come into contact with fire, it remains black, but if it contacts fire, it turns red. If you place a log across a swift stream, waves will pile up like hills. If you disturb a sleeping lion, it will roar loudly." -- Opening of the Eyes
"It is the same with Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters. The Lotus Sutra reads, “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?” It also reads, “It will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe.” The Nirvana Sutra states, “By suffering an untimely death, rebuke, curses or humiliation, beatings with a whip or rod, imprisonment, starvation, adversity, or other minor hardships in this lifetime, one can avoid falling into hell.” The Parinirvāna Sutra says: “They may be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be born to an impoverished and lowly family or one with erroneous views, or be persecuted by their sovereign. They may be subjected to various other sufferings and retributions. It is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that they can diminish in this lifetime their suffering and retribution.” -- Letter to the Brothers