Bodhisattvas of the Earth ［地涌の菩薩］ ( jiyu-no-bosatsu): An innumerable host of bodhisattvas who emerge from beneath the earth and to whom Shakyamuni Buddha entrusts the propagation of the Mystic Law, or the essence of the Lotus Sutra, in the Latter Day of the Law. They are described in the “Emerging from the Earth” (fifteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the first chapter of the sutra’s essential teaching (latter fourteen chapters). In this chapter, countless bodhisattvas from other worlds ask for permission to propagate the sutra in the sahā world after the Buddha’s death, but Shakyamuni refuses, saying that bodhisattvas who will carry out that task already exist in the sahā world. At this point the earth trembles and splits open, and from within it emerges a host of bodhisattvas equal in number to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers, each with his own retinue of followers. Their bodies are golden and they possess the thirty-two features that characterize a Buddha. They are led by four bodhisattvas—Superior Practices, Boundless Practices, Pure Practices, Firmly Established Practices—and Superior Practices is the leader of them all. In the “Supernatural Powers” (twenty-first) chapter, Shakyamuni transfers the essence of the Lotus Sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, entrusting them with the mission of propagating it after his death, specifically, in the Latter Day of the Law.
As the person who first revealed the Mystic Law, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which he described as the essence of the Lotus Sutra, and began its propagation in the Latter Day, Nichiren (1222–1282) identified himself with Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He also regarded his followers who embrace and propagate the teaching of the Mystic Law as the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. In this connection, Nichiren states in his work The True Aspect of All Phenomena: “There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women. Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku. At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well. Does this not signify ‘emerging from the earth’?” (385). See also bodhisattvas of the essential teaching.