Today there are people who have faith in the Lotus Sutra. The belief of some is like fire while that of others is like water. When the former listen to the teachings, their passion flares up like fire, but as time goes on, they tend to discard their faith. To have faith like water means to believe continuously without ever regressing. Since you visit me constantly, regardless of the difficulties, your belief is comparable to flowing water. It is worthy of great respect!
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu to Nanjō Tokimitsu, the steward of Ueno Village in Suruga Province, in the second month of the fourth year of Kenji (1278). He introduces the concept of the two kinds of faith: faith like ephemeral fire and faith like ever-flowing water.
One cannot attain Buddhahood if, though practicing eagerly at one point, one later gives into doubt and strays from the path of faith. The Daishonin here puts emphasis on the non-regressing faith that never wavers, no matter what obstacles one encounters.
“Faith like fire” corresponds to the faith of those who, when they listen to the teachings, are inspired to strive actively in their Buddhist practice, just like fire burns brightly when logs are added, but who lose enthusiasm as time passes, just like a fire that eventually burns out. This kind of faith is not self-motivated but stimulated by external influences. Thus, when the fuel or inspiration runs out, the passion is extinguished.
“Faith like water”, on the other hand, corresponds to the faith of those who have an inner generated seeking spirit for attaining the Buddha way. Such people continue to press forward unflaggingly, remaining steadfast in their Buddhist practice, refusing to be deterred by external influences.
Even when the ship of our lives is sailing smoothly, we must keep our eyes on the compass, courageously taking the helm and vigilantly steer our course. We must always renew our faith, challenge ourselves and win over obstacles, continuing to grow and move forward, just like water flows unwaveringly making its path through all obstacles.