I HAVE received the cloth for a lined robe and cloth for an unlined robe. Food sustains life and clothing covers our bodies. Those who bestow food on sentient beings invite the reward of long life, while those who steal food from people incur the retribution of a shortened life. Those who refuse to give clothing to people will experience the retribution of nakedness in existence after existence. Among those in the six paths, living beings from the world of human beings on down are all born naked, while beings of the heavenly realm are born wearing garments that freely change shape. Among those in the six paths, such beings as deer not only are born without garments, but because they once stole people’s clothing, they now receive the retribution of having their own skins peeled off and thus make up for that offense.
And even in the realm of human beings, the nun Bright White1 was born dressed in a robe. In Buddhism too no practice of teachings may be carried out without one’s robes. That is the reason Shakyamuni received a robe from his foster mother, the nun Mahāprajāpatī, and attained enlightenment. He also allowed all the monks to take up the three robes.
It is said that if a monk of inferior capacity is unable to acquire a supply of food and robes he will never reach the state of arhat. In particular, the Lotus Sutra tells of the robe of gentleness and patience2 and regards this robe as the basis of practice. Also, when it says that the Buddha covers the votary of the Lotus Sutra with the robe, this attests further to its significance.
Because I am a priest of no precepts who holds perverse views, the heavenly gods hate me and I am poor in both food and clothing. Nevertheless, I recite the Lotus Sutra and from time to time preach it. It is exactly as if a huge snake were clasping a jewel in its mouth or sandalwood trees were growing amid the eranda groves. I throw away the eranda and offer the sandalwood, or cover the body of the snake and bestow the jewel.
The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai said, “The other sutras predict Buddhahood only for men, but not for women.”3 If it were not for the Lotus Sutra, women could never attain Buddhahood. The Thus Come One Endowed with a Thousand Ten Thousand Glowing Marks4 refers to the nun Yashodharā.
Considering these things, one realizes that certainly it is the Lotus Sutra that makes it possible for women to attain Buddhahood. The statement that he “now must reveal the truth”5 is the golden words of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. The 945statement that “all that you have expounded is the truth”6 is the testimony of Many Treasures Buddha. “Their tongues reach to the Brahma heaven”7 is the solemn pledge of all the various Buddhas.
Could the sun and moon ever fall to the earth? Could Mount Sumeru ever crumble? Could the tide ever cease its ebb and flow? Could the earth ever overturn?
The benefits arising from the offering of these robes are described in the Lotus Sutra. Simply consider this with your faith, for it is difficult to express in words.