Reply to Hoshina Goro Taro (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo)
After Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty dreamed at night of a golden man [and dispatched emissaries to the western region],
the two sages, Kashyapa Matanga and Chu-fa-lan, came to China and stood for the first time at the gates of Ch'ang-an. From
that time until the reign of Emperor Hsuan-tsung of the T'ang dynasty, the Buddhist teachings of India spread throughout China.
During the Liang dynasty, Buddhism was first introduced to Japan by King Songmyong of the Korean kingdom of Paekche. This
occurred during the reign of Kimmei, the thirtieth emperor of our country. Thereafter, all the sutras and treatises were circulated
widely, and various Buddhist sects arose throughout Japan. Fortunately, therefore, even though we were born in the Latter
Day of the Law, we are able to hear the teachings preached at Eagle Peak, and even though we live in a remote corner of the
world, we are able to scoop up with our hands the water of the great river of Buddhism.
However, a close examination shows that there are distinctions to be made among the Buddha's teachings, such as the Hinayana
and the Mahayana or the provisional and true teachings, or those of the sequence of preaching. If one is confused about these
distinctions, he will fall into erroneous views, and even though he may practice Buddhsim, his offense will be greater than
that of committing the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins. For this reason, those who abhor the secular world and seek
the Way should understand this standard of evaluation before anything else. Otherwise, they are destined to follow the path
of the monk Kugan and other slanderers. As the Nirvana Sutra says: "If one clings to distorted views, at the time of his death
he will surely fall into the Avichi Hell.
Question: How can we discern the error of distorted views? Although I am a humble person, I am nevertheless anxious about
my next life and have resolved to seek the Buddhist Law to the best of my ability. Therefore, I wish to know this standard
of evaluation by all means. Should it be that I am adhering to distorted views, I will reflect on them and turn to the correct
Answer: It can be neither discerned with one's mortal eyes nor clarified with one's shallow wisdom. One should use the
sutras as his eyes and give precedence to the wisdom of the Buddha. Surely, however, if this standard is made clear, people
will become enraged and harbor indignation in their minds. Let them do as they will. What matters most is that we honor the
Buddha's command. As a rule, people in the world value what is distant and despise what is near, but this is the conduct of
the ignorant. Even the distant should be repudiated if it is wrong, while that which is near should not be discarded if it
accords with the truth. Even though people may revere [their predecessors' doctrines], if those doctrines are in error, how
can we employ them today?
I am told that the scholars of the ten schools - three in southern China and seven in northern China - were so outstanding
in authority and virtue that they were revered by the general populace for more than five hundred years. However, the Great
Teacher T'ien-t'ai, who lived during the reigns of emperors of the Ch'en and Sui dynasties, examined their doctrines and denounced
them as erroneous. Hearing of this, the people hated him intensely, but the Ch'en and Sui emperors, being worthy rulers, summoned
T'ien-t'ai to debate with the priests of the ten schools and settle the matter. Truth and error were thereby made clear, and
in consequence, the priests all revised the distorted views that their schools had upheld over a period of five hundred years
and became followers of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai. And in our own country, the Great Teacher Dengyo of Mount Hiei, the
founder of the Tendai sect, debated with the scholars of Nara and Kyoto and distinguished between right and wrong in the Buddhist
teachings. In every case, T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo based their arguments on the sutras.
However, the people of our time - whether clergy or laity, nobles or commoners - all revere persons and do not value the
Law. They make their own mind their teacher, and do not rely on the sutras. Consequently, they take up the provisional teachings
of the Nembutsu and discard the mystic scripture of the Mahayana, or employ the heretical doctrines of Shingon to slander
the True Law, the one supreme teaching. Are they not slanderers of the Mahayana? If what is written in the sutras is true,
how can they escape the sufferings of hell? And those who follow their erroneous teachings will also suffer the same fate.
Question: You claim that the Nembutsu and the Shingon should be denounced as provisional or erroneous doctrines, and that
their followers are people of distorted views or slanderers. This seems very doubtful. Kobo Daishi was a manifestation of
Kongosatta and a bodhisattva of the third stage of development. The Shingon is the most powerful secret teaching. Moreover,
Priest Shan-tao was an incarnation of Amida Buddha, the lord of the Western Land, and Priest Honen was an incarnation of Bodhisattva
Seishi. How can you call such eminent priests men of erroneous views?
Answer: Such criticism must of course not be leveled on the grounds of one's personal opinion; the matter must be clarified
on the basis of the sutras. The statement that the Shingon teaching represents the most profound of all secrets derives from
the assertion that the Soshisuji Sutra should be ranked as the king among the three Shingon sutras. Nowhere in the sutras
themselves do we read that the Shingon is the highest of all the Buddha's teachings.
In Buddhism, that teaching is judged supreme which enables all people, whether good or evil, to become Buddhas. So reasonable
a standard can surely be grasped by anyone. By means of it, we can compare the various sutras and ascertain which is superior.
The Lotus Sutra reveals that even the people of the two vehicles
can attain enlightenment, but the Shingon sutras do not. Rather, they categorically deny it. The Lotus Sutra teaches that
women are capable of attaining Buddhahood, but the Shingon sutras make no mention of this at all. In the Lotus Sutra, it is
written that evil people can attain enlightenment, but in the Shingon sutras we find nothing about this. How can one say that
the Shingon sutras are superior to the Lotus Sutra?
Moreover, if we discuss this matter in terms of the omens occurring at the time of preaching, six portents preceded the
preaching of the Lotus Sutra. Among them, flowers rained down from the heavens, the earth trembled, and a beam of light emanated
from the tuft of white hair between the Buddha's brows, reaching as high as the Akanishtha Heaven and illuminating as deep
as the Avichi Hell. Moreover, the Treasure Tower rose from the earth, and all the emanations of the Buddha assembled from
the ten directions. In addition, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth led by Jogyo emerged from beneath the earth, each with his
followers equaling in number the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers, fifty thousand, forty thousand, thirty thousand, and
so forth, down to the sands of one Ganges River, one half, and so forth. When such awesome and wondrous events are considered,
how can one still maintain that the Shingon sutras surpass the Lotus Sutra? I have no time to dwell on these matters. I have
brought up only one drop of the ocean.
I have here a copy of the one-volume work called Bodaishin Ron, which is attributed to Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. This work
says, "Only in the teachings of Shingon can one attain Buddhahood in his present form. Accordingly, the Shingon expounds the
method of entering samadhi. This doctrine is neither found nor recorded in any of the other teachings." As I thought this
statement extremely doubtful, I examined it in light of the sutras. I discovered that although the Shingon sutras contained
the words "attaining Buddhahood in one's present form," they gave no example of anyone who had actually done so. And even
if they had, because the attainment of Buddhahood in one's present form is also taught in the Lotus Sutra, Nagarjuna should
not have proclaimed that this principle is "neither found nor recorded in any of the other teachings." This is a gross error.
In truth, however, this treatise is not the work of Nagarjuna. I will explain this in detail on another occasion. Yet,
even if it were the work of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna, an error is still an error. In the Daichido Ron, Nagarjuna refers to a
vital point in differentiating among the teachings expounded by Shakyamuni during his lifetime: "The Hannya sutras are not
secret teachings because they contain no mention of the attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles. The Lotus Sutra is the secret teaching because it does." It also says, "Those
sutras which expound the attainment of Buddhahood by those of the two vehicles are esoteric teachings, and those which do
not are exoteric teachings."
If one goes by the words of the Bodaishin Ron, then he must not only specifically contradict Nagarjuna's Daichido Ron,
but more generally deny the one great reason why all Buddhas make their advent in the world. Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu and others
all appeared in this world in order to propagate the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Nagarjuna was one of the Buddha's twenty-four
successors. Could he really have put forth such an erroneous interpretation?
The Shingon sutras are inferior even to the Hannya sutras. How can we compare them with the Lotus Sutra? Nevertheless,
in the Hizo Hoyaku, Kobo claims that all the teachings expounded during the Buddha's lifetime are contained within the teachings
of Shingon. He not only relegates the Lotus Sutra to third place, but even dismisses it as "childish theory." Yet, when I reverently open the Lotus Sutra, I find that it declares itself
to be the highest among the teachings of all Buddhas, as well as the sutra supreme "among all those I [Shakyamuni] have preached,
now preach and will preach." In the ten comparisons of the Yakuo chapter, the Lotus Sutra is likened
to the ocean, the sun and Mount Sumeru. This being the case, could anything be deeper than the ocean, brighter than the sun
or higher than Mount Sumeru? One should realize the truth through such comparisons. On what basis can Kobo claim that the
Shingon sutras are superior to the Lotus Sutra? We find no such passages whatsoever in the Dainichi or other sutras. Trusting
only to his own view, he has violated the Buddha's intention for a long time.
The Great Teacher Miao-lo states, "I call upon those with eyes to examine this thoroughly." Is he not without eyes, who
regards the Lotus Sutra as inferior to the Kegon Sutra? The Nirvana Sutra reads: "If there is a person who slanders the True
Law of the Buddha, his tongue should be cut off." Ah, how pitiful that the tongue which slanders shall utter no words in world
after world, and that the eye attached to false views shall fall out in lifetime after lifetime, seeing nothing! Moreover,
the Lotus Sutra says, "One who refuses to take faith in this sutra and instead slanders it ... After he dies, he will fall
into the hell of incessant suffering." If this statement is valid, Kobo will surely fall into the great citadel of the hell
of incessant suffering where he will undergo agony for countless kalpas. One should also recognize the fate of Shan-tao and
Honen through his example. Who, among those endowed with wisdom, will dip into the stream of such slanderous teachings and
be consumed together with these men in the flames of the Avichi Hell? Truly, the votary should fear this. These are all persons
of profoundly distorted views. In this connection, we find, among the true and golden words of the Buddha: "[This Devil of
the Sixth Heaven and other devils will in time try] to destroy this True Law of mine. They will be like a hunter who wraps
his body in a priestly robe. They will assume the forms of stream-winners, once-returners, non-returners, arhats, pratyekabuddhas
or Buddhas, and will try to destroy this True Law of mine."
Shan-tao and Honen, displaying a variety of majestic powers, deceived ignorant priests and lay believers, and schemed to
destroy the Buddha's True law. And the Shingon schools in particular make it a point to emphasize worldly benefits exclusively.
Using animals as objects of worship, they conduct prayers not only to satisfy the passions of man and woman, but also to fulfill
desires for estates and the like. They claim such trifling results as wondrous benefits. However, if they are going to assert
the supremacy of Shingon on these grounds, they are no match for the Brahmans of India. Hermit Agastya kept the waters of
the Ganges River in his ear for twelve years. Hermit Jinu swallowed up the four great oceans in a day, and Brahman Uluka turned
into a stone and remained that way for eight hundred years. How could the results of the Shingon prayers surpass these? Hermit
Kudon assumed the form of the god Taishaku and preached for twelve years, while Kobo transformed himself into Vairochana for
an instant. Judge for yourself whose powers are the greater. If you believe that such transformations confer great benefit,
you might just as well believe in the Brahmans.
Yet it should be known that, while the Brahmans possessed such impressive powers, they could not escape the flames of the
Avichi Hell, not to mention those with only trivial powers of transformation. Even less can slanderers of the Mahayana avoid
this fate. The Shingon priests are evil friends to all living beings. Avoid them; fear them. The Buddha states: "Have no fear
of mad elephants. What you should fear are evil friends! Why? Because a mad elephant can only destroy your body; it cannot
destroy your mind. But an evil friend can destroy both body and mind. A mad elephant can only destroy a single body, but an
evil friend can destroy countless bodies and countless minds. A mad elephant merely destroys an impure stinking body, but
an evil friend can destroy both pure body and pure mind. A mad elephant can destroy the physical body, but an evil friend
destroys the Dharma body. Even if you are killed by a mad elephant, you will not fall into the three evil paths. But if you
are killed by an evil friend, you are certain to fall into them. A mad elephant is merely an enemy of your body, but an evil
friend is an enemy of the good Law." Therefore, even more than venomous serpents or malevolent demons, one should fear evil
friends who follow Kobo, Shan-tao and Honen. This is just a brief clarification of the error of holding distorted views.
The messenger is in such a great hurry that I have written only a small part of what I had to say. When an opportunity
arises in the future, I will write to you again, examining sutras and treatises in detail. Never show this letter to anyone.
If I survive until then, I will visit and talk with you in the fall of next year, as you requested.
With my deep respect,
The fifth day of the twelfth month
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo