Looking into the results of his practice, we see that Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, first attained enlightenment in this life. For more than forty years the Buddha revealed himself in four different ways in the four kinds of teachings;29 thus, by expounding the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, the theoretical teaching, and the Nirvana Sutra, he was able to benefit all living beings.
When he preached the Lotus Treasury World 30 [in the Flower Garland Sutra], Shakyamuni appeared as Vairochana Buddha seated on the lotus pedestal with other Buddhas surrounding him in the ten directions. When he preached the Āgama sutras, he appeared as a Buddha who had eliminated illusions and attained the way by practicing thirty-four kinds of spiritual purification. When he preached the Correct and Equal sutras, he was accompanied by a great multitude of Buddhas. One thousand Buddhas joined him when he preached the Wisdom sutras. In the Mahāvairochana and Diamond Crown sutras, he made a dignified appearance as the twelve hundred and more honored ones.31 In the “Treasure Tower” chapter of the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha manifested himself in four different ways, corresponding to the four kinds of lands. When the Buddha preached the Nirvana Sutra, those assembled saw him variously as a Buddha sixteen feet tall, as having a small or large body, as Vairochana Buddha, or as a Buddha with a body as vast as space. Thus he manifested four kinds of bodies.32 When the Buddha passed into extinction at the age of eighty, he left his relics 33 to benefit people in the Former, Middle, and Latter Days of the Law.
Now, the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra says that ShakyamuniBuddha, the lord of teachings, attained Buddhahood numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago, and that the cause that made this possible was the practice he had carried out at that time. Since then he has manifested emanation bodies throughout the worlds of the ten directions and preached all the sacred teachings of his lifetime to teach and convert people as numerous as the dust particles of the land. When we compare the number of disciples in the essential teaching with that of disciples in the theoretical teaching, the former is like the ocean, and the latter, like a drop of water, or the one, like a great mountain, and the other, like a speck of dust. What is more, a bodhisattva of the essential teaching is far p.361superior to any bodhisattva of the theoretical teaching, including Manjushrī, Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, or any of the others who gathered from the worlds in the ten directions. The difference between them is even greater than that between Shakra and a monkey. Are you saying that besides these bodhisattvas, the persons of the two vehicles who obtained their enlightenment by destroying their illusions, Brahmā, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four heavenly kings, the four wheel-turning kings, and the immense flames of the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering—all beings and all things in the ten directions are inherent in the Ten Worlds and in the three thousand realms of our own lives? Even if you say that this is what the Buddha taught, I still cannot believe it.
When we consider the matter in this light, we see that the sutras that came before the Lotus Sutra are genuine in both substance and wording. The Flower Garland Sutra describes enlightenment [at the stage of security] as “ultimately perfect and free from all falsehood and defilement, like the empty sky.” The Benevolent Kings Sutra reads, “[If one obtains the great wisdom of nirvana], one can penetrate the ultimate source of delusion and realize one’s essential nature until nothing but wonderful wisdom remains.” In the Diamond Wisdom Sutra it says, “[When one reaches enlightenment], nothing but pure goodness will remain.” Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha states in The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, “Only pure blessings exist within the matrix of the Thus Come One.” Bodhisattva Vasubandhu remarks in his Treatise on the Consciousness-Only Doctrine, “When adamantine meditation is achieved, other remaining defilements and a lesser form of non-defilement will draw forth the ultimate consciousness of perfect clarity and total purity. Then, being no longer necessary, they will be abandoned forever.”
A careful comparison of the Lotus Sutra and the sutras taught before it shows that those sutras are innumerable, and that they have been taught over a long time. Therefore, although both are the Buddha’s teachings, if these two contradict each other, you should accept the earlier sutras. Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha was the Buddha’s eleventh successor, whose appearance had been foretold by the Buddha himself.Vasubandhu was the author of one thousand treatises and was numbered among the four ranks of bodhisattvas. How then can you believe the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, a lowly priest living far away from the birthplace of Buddhism who [interpreted the sutras but] did not write a single treatise? Still, I might be able to disregard the many and accept the few, if the Lotus Sutra said anything to prove this point. But where in the sutra can you find any passages that definitely verify themutual possession of the Ten Worlds, the hundred worlds and thousand factors, and three thousand realms in a single moment of life?
In the Lotus Sutra we find the following passage: “He [the Buddha] has rooted out evil from among the phenomena.”34 Neither BodhisattvaVasubandhu’s Treatise on the Lotus Sutra nor Bodhisattva Sāramati’sTreatise on the Treasure Vehicle of Buddhahood makes any mention of themutual possession of the Ten Worlds. Nor are there any writings by the great teachers of the northern and southern schools in China, or by the priests of the seven temples of Japan, that expound this principle. It is simply T’ien-t’ai’s own biased view, and Dengyō made the mistake of transmitting it. That is what the Teacher of the Nation Ch’ing-liang35meant when he said, “This is an error of T’ien-t’ai’s.” The Dharma Teacher Hui-yüan said, “By defining Hinayana doctrines as the p.362Tripitaka teachings, T’ien-t’ai has confused Hinayana and Mahayana, [for both contain the Tripitaka, or three divisions of the canon].” Ryōkō36criticized him, saying, “T’ien-t’ai is the only one who did not understand the true meaning of the Flower Garland Sutra.” Tokuitsu reproached him, saying, “See here, Chih-i, whose disciple are you? With a tongue less than three inches long you slander the teachings that come from the Buddha’s long broad tongue that can cover even his face!”37 The Great Teacher Kōbō commented, “The Buddhist teachers of China vied with one another to steal the ghee [of the dhāranīs or True Word] and claim that it is the possession of their own school.”38 Thus, the doctrine ofthree thousand realms in a single moment of life is not mentioned in either the provisional or the true teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha. It did not appear in the writings of any of the four ranks of Indian scholars, and no Chinese or Japanese teacher has ever espoused it. How then do you dare to believe it?
Answer: Your criticisms are extremely harsh. Nonetheless, the differences between the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras are clear from the text of the sutras themselves. In them we find statements that the Buddha did not reveal the truth in the first forty-two years of his teaching, and that he will reveal it in the Lotus Sutra. Many TreasuresBuddha and the Buddhas of the ten directions presented themselves toattest to the truth of the Lotus Sutra, something they did not do for any other sutra. With the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni enabled the people of thetwo vehicles to attain Buddhahood, whereas with the earlier sutras he did not. In the earlier sutras he stated that he attained enlightenment for the first time in this world, but in the Lotus Sutra he revealed that his enlightenment actually occurred in the remote past.39
I will now address the problems posed by the scholars you mentioned above. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai comments: “Vasubandhuand Nāgārjuna clearly perceived the truth in their hearts, but they did not teach it. Instead, they employed the provisional Mahayana teachings, which were suited to the times. The Buddhist teachers who came later, however, were biased in their understanding, and the scholars obstinately clung to their own views, until in the end they began tobattle with one another. Each defended one small corner of the teachings and thereby completely departed from the sacred way of the Buddha.”40The Great Teacher Chang-an says of T’ien-t’ai, “Even the great scholars of India were not in a class with him, and the Chinese teachers—well, one need hardly mention them. This is no idle boast—the doctrine he taught was indeed of such excellence.”
In their hearts Vasubandhu, Nāgārjuna, Ashvaghosha, Sāramati, and other Buddhist scholars knew [the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life], but they did not reveal it to others because the time for it to be expounded had not yet come. As for the Buddhist teachers in China who preceded T’ien-t’ai, some kept this treasure in their hearts, and others knew nothing about it. Among those who came after him, some accepted this doctrine only after first trying to disprove it, and others never accepted it at all.
Concerning the passage in the Lotus Sutra that you quoted, “He [the Buddha] has rooted out evil from among the phenomena,” here the Buddha is referring to a teaching from one of the earlier sutras. But when you take a closer look at the sutra, it is clear that the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is being explained. For, in the same sutra, this passage is found: “The Buddhas wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings.” p.363T’ien-t’ai comments on this passage as follows: “If people do not possess innate Buddha wisdom, how could the Buddha say he wanted to open it? One must understand that Buddha wisdom is inherent in all human beings.”41 The Great Teacher Chang-an concludes, “How could people open the door to and realize their Buddha wisdom if it did not exist within them? How could a person show the poor woman her treasure repository if the treasure repository did not exist?”42
It is, however, extremely difficult to convince you that ShakyamuniBuddha, the lord of teachings, exists within us [just as the other nine worlds do]. Therefore, he gives us this admonishment beforehand: “Among the sutras I have preached, now preach, and will preach, thisLotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult tounderstand.”43 The “six difficult and nine easy acts” he expounds in the next chapter explains how difficult it is. Hence the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai states, “Because the theoretical and the essential teachings [of theLotus Sutra] contradict all the earlier sutras, they are extremely difficultto believe and difficult to understand—no less difficult than facing an enemy who is armed with a spear.”44 The Great Teacher Chang-ancomments, “The Buddha intended these as his ultimate teachings. How could they ever be easy to understand?” The Great Teacher Dengyōremarks, “The Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and tounderstand because in it the Buddha directly revealed what he had attained.”
In the more than eighteen hundred years after the Buddha’s passing, only three persons throughout the three countries perceived this correct doctrine. They are Shakyamuni Buddha of India, the Great TeacherT’ien-t’ai Chih-che of China, and the Great Teacher Dengyō of Japan. These three men are all Buddhist sages.
Like many of the Daishonin’s other works, this treatise is in the form of questions and answers. The treatise contains many difficult points and few answers which Nichiren Daishonin believed was bound to startle those who read or hear of it. Nichiren Daishonin completed this work, one of his most important, in the fourth month of 1273, during his exile at Ichinosawa on the island of Sado. It was addressed specifically to Toki Jōnin, a leading disciple who lived in Shimōsa Province, and its cover letter instructed that because it revealed the Daishonin’s ultimate teaching it should be shown to only those with strong faith. Four important elements are contained in this work. They are the time, the Buddha’s teaching, the people’s capacity, and the Law. Here we discuss a part of Buddha’s teaching.
While discussing various concepts, the Daishonin explains the concept of mutual possession of the Ten Worlds. He explains that each of Ten Worlds possesses the potential of all ten within itself. Rather than distinct realms, the Ten Worlds are conditions of life that everyone has the potential to experience at any time. It means that life is not fixed in one or another of the Ten Worlds, but can manifest any of the ten, from hell to the state of Buddhahood, at any given moment. While one of the ten is manifest, the other nine remain latent, in the state of non-substantiality. The important point of this principle is that all beings in any of the nine worlds possess the Buddha nature. This means that every person has the potential to manifest Buddhahood, while a Buddha also possesses the nine worlds and in this sense is not separate or different from ordinary people. From another viewpoint, the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds can be seen as indicating “the world of Buddhahood inherent in the nine worlds,” or “inclusion of Buddhahood in the nine worlds,” and “the nine worlds inherent in Buddhahood,” or “inclusion of the nine worlds in Buddhahood.” According to the doctrine of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, because one world possesses the other nine worlds, one cannot obtain the benefits that pertain to one’s own world without also obtaining the benefits of the other nine worlds.
For example, at one moment we may be experiencing the joy of Rapture, but in the next moment some factor in our surroundings may suddenly change so that we plunge into the depths of Hell. But this does not mean that the state of Rapture in us has ceased to exist; it has simply shifted from a manifest state to a latent one and, with the appropriate external stimulus, will emerge again from dormancy. Another example of mutual possession can be cited from Prsident Toda’s life who was imprisoned along with his mentor, and founder of the SGI Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, in 1943 after resisting the religious and thought control being imposed by the military regime of the time. Toda’s imprisonment was a crucial experience in awakening him to his mission of Kosen Rufu – to build the foundations for a peaceful society. Being seen as an enemy of the state in World War 2 Japan, was bad enough, but being in prison must have been a hellish experience, and far removed from the well equipped prisons we see in the West. Indeed, Makiguchi died in prison, aged 73, from malnutrition. From the depths of this hellish experience, Toda’s study of the Lotus Sutra and his chanting manifested the world of learning, and surpassing it even to bodhisattva, to come forth from prison and begin transforming society. He had truly conquered the hell of his incarceration.
In such a way, the ten states from Hell to Buddhahood can be activated by our relationship with the external world, manifesting themselves in both the physical and spiritual aspects of our every activity. Within a single individual the ten worlds, although they are of course each different from the other, are at the same time unified in their potential to shift from dormancy to activation and back again.