Point One, regarding the passage “Even if a person were to fill the whole thousand-millionfold world [or the major world system] with the seven treasures as an offering to the Buddha and the great bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas and arhats, the benefits gained by such a person cannot match those gained by accepting and upholding this Lotus Sutra, even just one four-line verse of it!”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “this Lotus Sutra” refer to the entire sutra made up of twenty-eight chapters. The words “one four-line verse of it,” you should understand, refer to the five characters of the daimoku.
173Point Two, on the ten comparisons illustrating the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The ten comparisons correspond to the Ten Worlds. Thus, the region situated beneath the mountains of the second comparison must include the realm of hell. The “rivers and streams” of the first comparison must refer to the realms of hungry spirits and of animals. The realm that lies beneath the sun and moon must include that of asuras. The mention of the deities Shakra and Brahmā must refer to the realm of heavenly beings, while that of “ordinary mortals” must refer to the realm of human beings. The mention of “voice-hearers” must refer to those persons in and aiming at the four stages of Hinayana enlightenment culminating in the stage of arhat. The reference to “pratyekabuddhas” must indicate the realm of cause-awakened ones or pratyekabuddhas. The phrase “Bodhisattvas are foremost” must indicate the realm of bodhisattvas, while the words “As the Buddha is king of the doctrines” must indicate that of Buddhas.
These ten comparisons, with their correspondence to the Ten Worlds, are cited on the one hand to show that, in terms of the classification of the various teachings, the Lotus Sutra holds the highest place. But they are also cited when one is discussing the manner in which the single vehicle of the Lotus Sutra was earlier taught in the form of three vehicles. In this sense, the ten comparisons are an expression of the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, for it is this doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life that is capable of freeing one from suffering and bringing one joy.
Point Three, regarding the passage “Such is this Lotus Sutra. It can cause living beings to cast off all distress, all sickness and pain. It can unloose all the bonds of birth and death.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The very heart of the Lotus Sutra is the teaching that earthly desires are 174enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. Here the two expressions “cast off” and “unloose” would seem to go directly counter to this teaching.
However, we should take the words “cast off” in the sense of “becoming enlightened concerning.” If we look with the eyes of wisdom as they are opened by the “Life Span” chapter of the essential teaching, we will become enlightened to the truth that sickness, pain, and distress are, and have always been, an innate part of life. Such is the wisdom of the Buddha of limitless joy.
The phrase “unloose all the bonds of birth and death” means to unlock us from the error of supposing that we are now encountering birth and death for the first time and to help us to realize that birth and death have always been an innate part of life. Thus we are released from the bonds of supposing that we will attain enlightenment for the first time [as Shakyamuni did in this lifetime in India]. These two expressions “cast off” and “unloose” are in fact expressions of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Point Four, regarding the passage “Excellent, excellent, good man! In the midst of the Law of Shakyamuni Buddha you have been able to accept, uphold, read, recite and ponder this sutra and to preach it for others. The good fortune you gain thereby is immeasurable and boundless. It cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “fire” here refers to the flames of the Avīchi hell, and the word “water” refers to the ice of the hell of the crimson lotus.
Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are persons who, as the text says, “cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water.”
Point Five, regarding the passage “Now you have been able to destroy all devils and thieves, to annihilate the army of birth and death, and all others who bore you enmity or malice have likewise been wiped out.”
175The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “who bore you enmity or malice” refer to slanderers of the Law such as the Nembutsu, Zen, and True Word followers. “Have been wiped out” refers to the principle that “the Lotus Sutra is the teaching of shakubuku, the refutation of the provisional doctrines” [Profound Meaning, volume nine]. This is what Nichiren and his followers are doing now when they chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Point Six, regarding the passage “This sutra provides good medicine for the ills of the people of Jambudvīpa. If a person who has an illness is able to hear this sutra, then his illness will be wiped out and he will know neither old age nor death.”
Volume ten of Words and Phrases says, “One should meditate on and give full understanding to this passage.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “a person” here include everyone from those on the highest level who have attained the fruits of Buddhahood down to those on the lowest, the offenders in hell. “Illness” refers to the three poisons of greed, anger, and foolishness, fundamental earthly desires possessed even by Buddhas and bodhisattvas. “Neither old age” refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, and “nor death” refers to the bodhisattvas who emerged from the earth and their followers.
This passage is preached for the sake of living beings in the present age, after the Buddha has passed away. Accordingly the word “illness” in such a case refers to the slandering of the Law. Hence those persons who accept and uphold this sutra will without doubt find their illness wiped out at once. Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are just such persons.