Understand then that the votary who practices the Lotus Sutra exactly as the Buddha teaches will without fail be attacked by the three powerful enemies.
What a great pity it is that all the Japanese people are delighted to see Nichiren and his disciples and lay believers suffer at the hands of the three powerful enemies! What befell another yesterday may befall oneself today. Nichiren and his followers have but a short time to endure—merely the time it takes for frost or dew to vanish in the morning sun. When our prayers for Buddhahood are answered and we are dwelling in the true land of Tranquil Light where we will experience the boundless joy of the Law, what pity we will feel for those who sink to the bottom of the great citadel of the Avīchi hell and meet extreme suffering there! How they will envy us then!
Life flashes by in but a moment. No matter how many terrible enemies you may encounter, banish all fears and never think of backsliding.
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to all his followers in the fifth month of 1273, while he was still enduring the severe privations of exile on Sado Island. The title, On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings, indicates practicing in exact accordance with what the Buddha taught.
In this letter the question is raised: Why must believers experience hardships when the Lotus Sutra promises “peace and security in their present existence”? Nichiren Daishonin answers that those who practice the Lotus Sutra exactly according to the Buddha’s teachings are bound to face the three powerful enemies, whose appearance was predicted in the “Encouraging Devotion” chapter of the sutra. In other words, one proves oneself to be a true votary only by facing and overcoming great obstacles for the sake of the Buddha’s teachings. In essence, this means to forthrightly make clear what is the correct teaching of Buddhism and to mercifully transmit the teaching to others.
The three powerful enemies refers to the types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra In the sutra text, the first type is described as follows: “There will be many ignorant people / who will curse and speak ill of us / and will attack us with swords and staves.”
The second type: “In that evil age there will be monks / with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked / who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, / being proud and boastful in heart.”
And the third type: “Or there will be forest-dwelling monks / wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement, / who will claim they are practicing the true way, / despising and looking down on all humankind. / Greedy for profit and support, / they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen / and will be respected and revered by the world / as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers. . . .”
It is explained that of these three, the first can be endured. The second exceeds the first, and the third is the most formidable of all. This is because the second and third ones are increasingly harder to recognize for what they really are.