The moon appears in the west1 and sheds its light eastward, but the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west. The same is true of Buddhism. It spread from west to east in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, but will travel from east to west in the Latter Day. The Great Teacher Miao-lo says, “Does this not mean that Buddhism has been lost in India, the country of its origin, and must now be sought in the surrounding regions?”2 Thus, no Buddhism is found in India anymore. During the 150 years or so since barbarians from the north invaded the Eastern Capital in the time of Emperor Kao-tsung,3 both Buddhism and imperial authority became extinct in China. Concerning the collection of scriptures kept in China, not one Hinayanasutra remains, and most Mahayana sutras have also been lost. Even when Jakushō and other priests set out from Japan to take some sutras to China,4 no one was found there who could embrace these sutras and teach them to others. It was as though there were only wooden or stone statues garbed in priests’ robes and carrying begging bowls. That is why Tsun-shih said, “It [Buddhism] came first from the west, like the moon appearing. Now it is returning from the east, like the sun rising.”5 These remarks make it clear that Buddhism is lost in both India and China.
Nichiren Daishonin was fifty-two years old when he wrote this letter during his exile at Ichinosawa on the island of Sado in 1273. It is addressed to his disciples and lay supporters in general.
The title, On the Buddha’s Prophecy, points to two prophecies: One is Shakyamuni Buddha’s prediction that the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law and spread the sutra’s teachings despite great persecutions. The other is the Daishonin’s own prophecy that in the Latter Day and on into the eternal future his teachings will spread throughout the world to benefit humankind.
The Buddhism of the Former and Middle Days of the Law essentially had personal peace of mind as an objective. By the time of the Latter Day of the Law, Buddhism had developed into a self-absorbed practice in which individuals simply sought peace of their minds. Nichiren struggled to establish a religion with the power to bring security and peace of mind to all people and to accomplish world peace based on the philosophy of inner transformation. In this passage, he compares Buddhism that spread eastward from the west in the Former and Middle Days of the Law as the moon, and likens the spread of Buddhism in the Latter Day of the Law, from east to west, as the sun.
Source: Living Buddhism, Sept, 2012