Point One, concerning Bodhisattva Universal Worthy
Words and Phrases, volume ten, says, “The word kambotsu, or ‘encouragement,’ is expressive of veneration for the Law.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: In the compound kambotsu, the element kan, or “encouragement,” refers to the conversion of others, while the element botsu (or hotsu), or “initiate,” refers to one’s own practice.
In the name Fugen, or Universal Worthy, the element fu, “universal,” refers to the true aspect of all phenomena, the principle of eternal and unchanging truth as embodied in the theoretical teaching. The element gen, or “worthy” or “wise,” expresses the idea of wisdom, the wisdom of the truth that functions in accordance with changing circumstances, as embodied in the essential teaching. Hence we see that here, at the conclusion of the sutra, 190there is expressed a veneration for the Law as it is implied in the two teachings, the theoretical and the essential.
Generally speaking, we may say that, now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they enjoy the care and protection of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy.
Point Two, on the passage “If when the Lotus Sutra is propagated throughout Jambudvīpa there are those who accept and uphold it, they should think to themselves: This is all due to the authority and supernatural power of Universal Worthy!”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: It is due to the authority and supernatural power of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy that this Lotus Sutra is propagated throughout Jambudvīpa. Therefore the widespread propagation of this sutra must be under the care and protection of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy.
Point Three, on the passage “If they do no more than copy the sutra, when their lives come to an end they will be reborn in the Trāyastrimsha heaven. At that time eighty-four thousand heavenly women, performing all kinds of music, will come to greet them. Such persons will put on crowns made of seven treasures and amidst the ladies-in-waiting will amuse and enjoy themselves.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The number eighty-four thousand refers to the doctrine of the eighty-four thousand dust-like cares that beset us, or the earthly desires. It is referring to the principle that earthly desires are none other than enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are none other than nirvana.
The crowns made of seven treasures represent the seven openings in the head, those of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Now Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are persons who wear such crowns.
191Point Four, on the passage “If there are persons who accept, uphold, read, and recite the sutra and understand its principles, when the lives of these persons come to an end, they will be received into the hands of a thousand Buddhas, who will free them from all fear and keep them from falling into the evil paths of existence.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: When persons who do not have faith in the Lotus Sutra come to the end of their lives, they fall into hell. Hence the sutra says, “If a person fails to have faith / but instead slanders this sutra, / immediately he will destroy all the seeds / for becoming a Buddha in this world. / . . . When his life comes to an end / he will enter the Avīchi hell” (chapter three, Simile and Parable). But when practitioners of the Lotus Sutra come to the end of their lives, they will attain Buddhahood. Thus the text here says, “When the lives of these persons come to an end, they will be received into the hands of a thousand Buddhas.”
The thousand Buddhas represent the doctrine of the thousand factors. The wardens of hell will come to greet those who have slandered the Law, but a thousand Buddhas will come to greet the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. Without doubt, therefore, a thousand Buddhas will come to greet Nichiren and his followers, who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Point Five, on the passage “World-Honored One, I now therefore employ my transcendental powers to guard and protect this sutra. And after the Thus Come One has entered extinction, I will cause it to be widely propagated throughout Jambudvīpa and will see that it never comes to an end.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: This word “throughout,” or more literally “within,” implies that the three other directions, east, west, and north, are less favored. The sutra passage is saying that the Lotus Sutra is to be propagated only within the southern continent of Jambudvīpa. One should give careful thought to the word “within.”
192Now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they must ponder this matter deeply.
Point Six, on the passage “Universal Worthy, after the Thus Come One has entered extinction, . . . if you see someone who accepts, upholds, reads, and recites the Lotus Sutra, you should think to yourself: Before long this person will proceed to the place of practice, conquer the devil hosts, and attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi [supreme perfect enlightenment].”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “this person” refer to the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra. The place where the person upholds and honors the Lotus Sutra is the “place of practice” to which the person proceeds. It is not that he leaves his present place and goes to some other place. The “place of practice” is the place where the living beings of the Ten Worlds reside. And now the place where Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, “whether . . . in mountain valleys or the wide wilderness” (chapter twenty-one, Supernatural Powers), these places are all the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. This is what is meant by “the place of practice.” A commentary [The Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra,” volume ten] says, “This cause is unchanging [and never fails to bring about enlightenment], hence the text says, Proceeding directly to the place of practice’ [chapter three, Simile and Parable].” One should keep this in mind.
In this chapter Shakyamuni Buddha revealed the foremost point he wished to convey to us. The Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra over a period of eight years, and eight characters sum up the message that he has left behind for living beings in this later age, the Latter Day of the Law. It is in the passage that reads, “Therefore, Universal Worthy, if you see a person who accepts and upholds this sutra, you should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha” (chapter 193twenty-eight), particularly the eight characters that make up the end of the passage, “you should rise and greet him,” etc. With this passage the words of Shakyamuni Buddha in the sutra come to an end, thus in effect ending the sutra.
The word “should” shows that these words refer to the future. The words “should rise and greet him from afar” indicate that the sutra passage is saying that one should without fail show the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra the kind of respect one would show to a Buddha. Similarly, “The Teacher of the Law” chapter says, “Again if there are persons who embrace, read, recite, expound, and copy the Lotus Sutra . . . and look upon this sutra with the same reverence as they would the Buddha . . .”
For eight years the Buddha preached the Law, beginning with what the “Expedient Means” chapter of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo calls “the wisdom of the Buddhas,” and then ending his preaching with the eight characters that read, “you should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha.” With just these eight characters he summed up the message of the entire sutra. Hence Words and Phrases, volume ten, says, “The section that begins with ‘You should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha,’ concludes the description of the benefits gained by persons of faith.” That is, the entire Lotus Sutra has its basis in this one word, faith.
Question: In the present text of the Lotus Sutra, the “Introduction” chapter begins with the word nyo, “this” or “like this,” and the “Universal Worthy” chapter, the last chapter, ends with the word ko, “departed.” This arrangement was made on purpose by the Tripitaka Master Kumārajīva, but what doctrinal principle is he attempting to express thereby?
Answer: The essence of the teachings expressed in the Lotus Sutra lies in the two principles of the true aspect of all phenomena and Shakyamuni Buddha’s original enlightenment in the distant past. These constitute its essential doctrines. The first word in the sutra, nyo, expresses the true aspect of all phenomena, while the last word, ko, expresses the event in the remote past. Hence 194we may say that the true aspect of all phenomena represents the theory or principle (ri) underlying the teaching, while the event in the remote past represents the factual realization (ji) of the principle.
The word ri, theory or principle, means the principle of emptiness, and the word “emptiness” means nyo, or “like,” or “equal to” something. That is why the word nyo was chosen to represent theory or principle and emptiness. Thus a commentary [Profound Meaning, volume two] says, “The word nyo means ‘not different from’ and hence has the meaning of emptiness.”
The event in the distant past is the factual realization (ji) of the nyo principle. Therefore, the core of the doctrine found in the “Life Span” chapter of the essential teaching is summed up in the factual realization of the actuality or the perfect doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life.
The word ko, or “departed,” corresponds to that which took place “long ago.” Ko means to be separated from something, while nyo means to be joined together. Separation represents the mind that makes distinctions; joining together represents the mind that is without distinctions.
When these two principles of separation and joining together are applied to the relationship of living beings and Buddhahood, we may say that joining together stands for the world of Buddhahood, while separation stands for the various kinds of living beings. The word nyo that appears at the beginning of the “Introduction” chapter [that is, nyo ze gamon, or “This is what I heard”] expresses the idea that living beings and Buddhahood are not two different things.
The theoretical teaching deals with the idea that living beings and Buddhahood are not two different things, since it expresses the eternal and unchanging truth or Thusness (nyo) of things. Hence we can take the nyo of the sentence “This (nyo) is what I heard” to refer to the nyo of the term “eternal and unchanging truth (shinnyo).”
In terms of the three truths of non-substantiality, temporary existence, and the Middle Way, nyo, or “this,” represents 195non-substantiality, ze, or “is,” represents the Middle Way, and gamon, or “what I heard,” represents temporary existence. The theoretical teaching deals principally with emptiness or non-substantiality.
Therefore we may say that on top of the basic principle of oneness or non-differentiation there is the opposite principle, that of ‘twoness’ or differentiation. When the sutra is illustrating this principle of twoness or differentiation, it treats the members of the assembly, all of whom alike listen to the sutra, as separate individuals, listing their names.
The ko, or “departed” or “parted,” which is placed at the end of the essential teaching, represents the wisdom of the truth that functions in accordance with changing circumstances. It expresses the idea that living beings and Buddhahood are two different things. Hence the word “departed” or “parted” is used. Indeed, the “departed” of the words “they bowed in obeisance and departed” (chapter twenty-eight) is regarded as the wisdom of the truth that functions in accordance with changing circumstances. The essential teaching thus deals with the non-differentiation that is based on differentiation. One should think of a commentary on this, which reads, “Two but not two, constantly the same yet constantly different—past and present, such is the Dharma.”
We may also take the word ko, or “departed,” to refer to the passage in the “Expedient Means” chapter that describes how five thousand arrogant members of the assembly “rose from their seats, bowed to the Buddha, and withdrew (departed).” Therefore, as has been stated earlier, the number five thousand stands for five types of earthly desires that are at all times a part of our makeup. The meaning of the passage then is that the five types of abiding earthly desires bow in obeisance to the Buddha in our own minds and make their departure.
The two words nyo and ko may also stand for the two factors of birth and death. As Dengyō says, “Ko, or ‘departed,’ is the Thus Come One who never comes [and therefore who never departs], the perfect departure that never departs.”
The word nyo, or “thus,” represents the principle that all phenomena are the mind, while the word ko, or “depart,” represents 196the principle that the mind is all phenomena. The principle that all phenomena are the mind is the unchanging truth or Thusness (nyo) of the theoretical teaching. The principle that the mind is all phenomena is the truth or Thusness that functions in accordance with changing circumstances as expressed in the essential teaching. For this reason, when the Dharma-realm is compressed into a single mind, this is the principle of nyo, and when a single mind is opened up and pervades the Dharma-realm, this is the principle of ko. The meaning of this is the same as the oral transmission regarding the three truths and the threefold contemplation or observation of the three truths unified in a single mind.
According to another interpretation, nyo stands for “true” [of the true aspect] or reality, while ko stands for “aspect” or form. Reality is the mind itself, while form is the workings of the mind. Or again we may say that “all phenomena” in the phrase “the true aspect of all phenomena” corresponds to ko, while the “true aspect” corresponds to nyo. This is why we learn that the entire Lotus Sutra from beginning to end deals with the four characters that represent the true aspect of all phenomena. A commentary [An Essay on the Protection of the Nation, written by Dengyō] says, “Now what constitutes the essence of the sutra? The words ‘the true aspect of all phenomena’ constitute the essence.”
But now if we delve more deeply into the matter and inquire how Nichiren goes about his religious practice, we may say that for him the word nyo is the nyo (“as”) of the phrase “practice it [the Lotus Sutra] as the sutra instructs” (chapter eighteen, Responding with Joy).
Therefore when the transmission of the five characters that represent the essence of the Lotus Sutra took place, the procedure began in the “Treasure Tower” chapter, when Shakyamuni Buddha spoke in a voice that penetrated to the lower regions, calling on those who are near to preserve the sutra and those who are far away to preserve it. [“The Buddha wishes to entrust this Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law to someone so that it may be preserved” (chapter eleven, Treasure Tower).] With these two words 197“be preserved,” he declared he would entrust the sutra to the bodhisattvas of the essential teaching and the bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching. Hence we traditionally refer to this passage as the secret or veiled introduction to the essential teaching.
After the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Many Treasures, were seated side by side in the treasure tower and the Buddhas that were emanations of Shakyamuni had been gathered together, Shakyamuni proceeded to expound and make clear Myoho-renge-kyo, what the Buddha called “this good medicine” (chapter sixteen, Life Span). Then in the “Supernatural Powers” chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha demonstrated ten types of supernatural powers, summarized the teaching in the four pronouncements that begin with the words “all the doctrines possessed by the Thus Come One,” etc.1 and in this way entrusted the teaching to Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
What was transmitted at that time was the Wonderful Law, the title of the sutra. You should keep in mind that there are distinctions between the general transmission of the sutra made outside the treasure tower as described in the “Entrustment” chapter and the specific transmission made within the tower as depicted in the “Supernatural Powers” chapter. Thus the transmission ceremony that began in the “Treasure Tower” chapter, with the teaching to be transmitted and the person to whom it is transferred revealed in the “Emerging from the Earth” and “Life Span” chapters, is brought to a conclusion in the “Supernatural Powers” and “Entrustment” chapters.
These passages in the “Supernatural Powers” chapter are stating clearly and emphatically that, with regard to the five characters Myoho-renge-kyo, in the Latter Day of the Law, when the Pure Law of Shakyamuni Buddha has passed into extinction, 198Bodhisattva Superior Practices will appear in the world to proclaim them and, of the five types of practice advocated by Shakyamuni, to accept and uphold, to read, to recite, to explain and preach, and to copy the Lotus Sutra, will explain that only the first, to accept and uphold the sutra, is to be practiced as the way to attain Buddhahood. This is what the “Supernatural Powers” chapter means when it says, “Therefore a person of wisdom, / . . . after I have passed into extinction / should accept and uphold this sutra. / Such a person assuredly and without doubt / will attain the Buddha way.” The meaning of this passage is perfectly obvious. Hence we traditionally refer to this passage as the statement of the Buddha in which he transfers his merit to the upholders of the sutra.
For this reason, the attitude of mind of one who accepts and upholds this sutra is that of the nyo (“as”) of the phrase “practice it [the Lotus Sutra] as the sutra instructs.” If one uses this attitude of mind to reverentially accept and uphold the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, at once the illnesses of ignorance and earthly desires will all depart, and one will emerge clothed in the shining flesh of perfect enlightenment and the ultimate reward. That is why this word ko, or “departed,” has been placed at the very conclusion of the sutra. It is in effect an explanation of the words that precede it, “Accepting and upholding the words of the Buddha” (chapter twenty-eight).
Even the devil kings with their earthly desires and evil enlightenment, when the light of the true aspect of all phenomena shines on them, will gain the kind of penetrating insight that allows them to perceive that their bodies and minds at a single moment pervade the entire Dharma-realm. When that happens, they will, contrary to their usual practices, bow in obeisance to the Buddha who is in their minds. That is why the sutra says, “They bowed in obeisance and departed.” One should recall in this context the passage of commentary [volume five of The Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight”] that reads, “All the three thousand conditions of this or that person permeate one another in this way.”
199But treat all this as secret. Treat this as secret. It is something to be transmitted from teacher to disciple only, not to be talked of with outsiders.
The ultimate view of the teachings handed down with regard to the word ko, or “departed,” then, is that ko represents the ko, or “departure,” of the “departure that never departs.”