On Repaying Debts of Gratitude ［報恩抄］ ( Hō’on-shō): One of Nichiren’s five or ten major writings, dated the twenty-first day of the seventh month of 1276, a little more than two years after he had moved to Minobu in Kai Province, Japan. It was prompted by the news of the death of Dōzen-bō who had been Nichiren’s teacher at Seichō-ji temple in Awa Province. Nichiren wrote this treatise in memory of the deceased Dōzen-bō and sent it to Jōken-bō and Gijō-bō, his former seniors at Seichō-ji who now regarded Nichiren as their teacher. He entrusted this writing to Nikō, later one of the six senior priests he designated, and requested that it be read aloud at Kasagamori on the summit of Mount Kiyosumi where he is said to have first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and again before the tomb of his late teacher.
Nichiren begins this treatise by emphasizing the need to repay one’s obligations to one’s parents, teacher, the three treasures of Buddhism, and one’s sovereign. Of these four debts of gratitude, this work stresses specifically repaying that owed to one’s teacher. Nichiren states that to repay such debts one must dedicate oneself single-mindedly to Buddhist practice and attain enlightenment. To this end, Nichiren traces the development of the various schools of Buddhism in India, China, and Japan, focusing on the sutras upon which these schools base their doctrines. He next identifies the Lotus Sutra as the highest of all the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. He then refutes the doctrines of the various schools, especially of the True Word (Shingon) school, a Japanese form of Esoteric Buddhism. In this work, Nichiren also criticizes Jikaku and Chishō, patriarchs of the Tendai school who incorporated the doctrines and rituals of Esoteric Buddhism into the school’s teachings, which were based originally on the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren determines that the essence of the Lotus Sutra is its title, or daimoku, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and reveals the Three Great Secret Laws or teachings to be propagated in the Latter Day of the Law. They are the invocation, or daimoku, the object of devotion, and the sanctuary, of the essential teaching. Then he states, “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (736).