It is the nature of beasts to threaten the weak and fear the strong. Our contemporary scholars of the various schools are just like them. They despise a wise man without power, but fear evil rulers. They are no more than fawning retainers. Only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove one’s real strength. When an evil ruler in consort with priests of erroneous teachings tries to destroy the correct teaching and do away with a man of wisdom, those with the heart of a lion king are sure to attain Buddhahood. Like Nichiren, for example. I say this not out of arrogance, but because I am deeply committed to the correct teaching. An arrogant person will always be overcome with fear when meeting a strong enemy, as was the haughty asura who shrank in size and hid himself in a lotus blossom in Heat-Free Lake when reproached by Shakra.WND I: 32, p. 302
Nichiren Daishonin states, “Buddhism should be spread by the method of either shoju or shakubuku, depending on the age”. After clarifying that shakubuku (strict refutation), not shoju (gentle persuasion), is the appropriate method of propagation for the Latter Day of the Law, he explains that such efforts, when carried out with unstinting dedication, will inevitably face great opposition and obstacles.
In the passage, he highlights the underlying circumstances of his Sado Exile and the true nature of the authorities and slanderous priests who are attacking him. In doing so, he reveals the pattern of persecution that invariably befalls genuine practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.
The three powerful enemies (secular authorities, priests and lay believers of erroneous teachings) join forces to attack the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. Those who stand alone and forge ahead with the “heart of a lion king” in the midst of this intense onslaught are Buddhas.
Nichiren Daishonin is calling on his disciples to look at his example. Amid life-threatening persecution, he stands calmly with the towering life state of Buddhahood. Through his own example, he urges his disciples to follow him on this great path of a lion king.
We have persevered straight ahead on this path. Seeing through the chaotic upsurge of the “three obstacles and four devils” for what it is, we have roused strong faith. When faced with difficulties, we have immediately tackled the situation with the firm determination to change poison into medicine. Summoning the “heart of a lion king,” we have fearlessly confronted adversity, ready to take on any challenge. We have also transformed opponents into allies, and turned headwinds into tailwinds that lift us higher. In each struggle, we have practiced in accord with the Buddha’s teachings and read Nichiren’s writings with our lives.
Source: Living Buddhism, April 2017, p. 45