I have received your offering of various articles.
Nothing would please me more than to know that you have communicated
with the late Ueno, but I know that that is impossible. Unless it
was in a dream, it is unlikely that you have seen him. Unless it
was an illusion, how could you have seen him? Surely your late husband
is in the pure land of Eagle Peak, listening and watching over this
saha world day and night. You, his wife, and your children have
only mortal senses, so you cannot see or hear him, but be assured
that you will eventually be reunited [on Eagle Peak].
The men with whom you have exchanged marriage vows
over the course of all your previous lifetimes must outnumber even
the grains of sand in the ocean. Your vows this time, however, were
ones made with your true husband. The reason is that it was due
to his encouragement that you became a practitioner of the Lotus
Sutra. Thus you should revere him as a Buddha. When he was alive,
he was a Buddha in life, and now he is a Buddha in death. He is
a Buddha in both life and death. This is what is meant by that most
important doctrine called attaining Buddhahood in one’s present
form. The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "If one
can uphold this [sutra], one will be upholding the Buddha’s body."1
Neither the pure land nor hell exists outside oneself;
both lie only within one’s own heart. Awakened to this, one is called
a Buddha; deluded about it, one is called an ordinary person. The
Lotus Sutra reveals this truth, and one who embraces the Lotus Sutra
will realize that hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light.
Even if one were to practice the provisional teachings
for immeasurable millions of years, if one should turn away from
the Lotus Sutra, it would simply always be hell. I did not make
this assertion; it was decided by Shakyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures
Buddha, and the emanation Buddhas of the ten directions. To practice
the provisional teachings is to be like a person scorched by fire
who goes deeper into the flames, or like a drowning person sinking
farther toward the bottom of the depths. Those who fail to embrace
the Lotus Sutra are like persons going into fire or water. Those
who rely on such evil teachers as Honen, Kobo, and other slanderers
of the Lotus Sutra and believe in the Amida or Mahavairochana Sutra
are going farther and farther into the fire or deeper and deeper
into the depths of the water. How can they possibly escape agony?
They will doubtless fall into the fiery pits of the hell of repeated
rebirth for torture, the hell of black cords, and the hell of incessant
suffering, or sink into the icy depths of the hell of the crimson
lotus and the hell of the great crimson lotus. 2 The
second volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "When his life comes
to an end he will enter the Avichi hell, [be confined there for
a whole kalpa, and when the kalpa ends, be born there again]. He
will keep repeating this cycle for a countless number of kalpas."3
Your late husband has escaped such agonies, for he
was a lay supporter of Nichiren, the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
The sutra reads, "If someone . . . should enter a great fire,
the fire could not burn him. . . . If one were washed away by a
great flood and called upon his name, one would immediately find
oneself in a shallow place."4 It also reads, "The
good fortune you gain thereby . . . cannot be burned by fire or
washed away by water."How reassuring! How encouraging!
After all, even if one looks for hell in some faraway
place, the iron rods of the wardens of hell and the accusing cries
of the demon guards do not exist apart from one. This teaching is
of prime importance, but I will impart it to you just as Bodhisattva
Manjushri explained the secret teaching of the attainment of Buddhahood
in one’s present form to the dragon king’s daughter. After hearing
it, strive even more earnestly in faith. One who, on hearing the
teachings of the Lotus Sutra, makes even greater efforts in faith
is a true seeker of the way. T’ien-t’ai states, "From the indigo,
an even deeper blue."5 This passage means that,
if one dyes something repeatedly in indigo, it becomes even bluer
than the indigo leaves. The Lotus Sutra is like the indigo, and
the strength of one’s practice is like the deepening blue.
The two characters for hell can be interpreted to
mean digging a hole in the ground. Can anyone avoid having a hole
dug for them when they die? This is what is called "hell."
The flames that burn one’s body are the fires of the hell of incessant
suffering. One’s wife, children, and relatives vying for position
around one’s body as they move toward the grave are the wardens
and demon guards of hell. The plaintive cries of one’s family are
the voices of the guards and wardens of hell. One’s two-and-a- half-foot-long
walking stick is the iron rod of torture in hell. The horses and
oxen that carry one’s body are the horse-headed and ox-headed demons,
and the grave is the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
The eighty-four thousand earthly desires are eighty-four thousand
cauldrons in hell. One’s body leaves home for the mountain of death,
while the river beside which one’s filial children stand in grief
is the river of three crossings. It is utterly useless to look for
hell anywhere else.
Those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, however, can turn
all this around. Hell becomes the Land of Tranquil Light; the burning
fires of agony become the torch of the wisdom of a Thus Come One
of the reward body; the dead person becomes a Thus Come One of the
Dharma body; and the fiery inferno, the "room of great pity
and compassion"6 where a Thus Come One of the manifested
body abides. Moreover, the walking stick becomes the walking stick
of the true aspect, or the Mystic Law; the river of three crossings
becomes the ocean of "the sufferings of birth and death are
nirvana"; and the mountain of death becomes the towering peak
of "earthly desires are enlightenment." Please think of
it in this way. Both attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form
and "opening the door of Buddha wisdom"7 refer
to realizing this and to awakening to it. Devadatta’s changing the
Avichi hell into the blissful Land of Tranquil Light, and the dragon
king’s daughter’s attaining Buddhahood without changing her form,
were nothing other than this. It is because the Lotus Sutra saves
those who oppose it as well as those who follow it. This is the
blessing of the single character myo, or mystic.
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna stated, "[The Lotus Sutra
is] like a great physician who can change poison into medicine."8
The Great Teacher Miao-lo stated, "How can one seek the Land
of Eternally Tranquil Light anywhere apart from Buddhagaya? This
saha world does not exist anywhere outside the Land of Eternally
Tranquil Light."9 He also said: "The true aspect
invariably manifests in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably
manifest in the ten factors. The ten factors invariably manifest
in the Ten Worlds,
and the Ten Worlds invariably manifest in life and its environment."10
The Lotus Sutra reads, "The true aspect of all
phenomena [can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This
reality consists of the appearance, nature . . . and] their consistency
from beginning to end."11 The "Life Span"
chapter states, "It has been immeasurable, boundless [hundreds,
thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas] since I
in fact attained Buddhahood." In this passage, "I"
refers to all beings in the Ten Worlds. Because all beings of the
Ten Worlds are inherently Buddhas, they dwell in the pure land.
The "Expedient Means" chapter reads, "These phenomena
are part of an abiding Law, [and] the characteristics of the world
are constantly abiding." Since it is the way of the world that
birth and death are eternally unchanging characteristics of life
in the three existences of past, present, and future, there is no
need to grieve or to be surprised. The single word "characteristic"
represents the eight characteristics, or phases, of the Buddha’s
existence. Even these eight phases do not transcend the two words
birth and death. To be enlightened in this way is referred to as
the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form by the votaries
of the Lotus Sutra.
Since your deceased husband was a votary of this sutra,
he doubtless attained Buddhahood just as he was. You need not grieve
so much over his passing. On the other hand, to grieve is only natural
for ordinary people. However, even sages are sometimes sad. Could
the lamenting of all the great enlightened disciples of Shakyamuni
Buddha at his passing have been meant to show the behavior of ordinary
You should by all means perform as much good as you
possibly can for the sake of your deceased husband. The words of
a wise man of old also teach that "you should base your mind
on the ninth consciousness, and carry out your practice in the six
consciousnesses."12 How reasonable it is too! In
this letter I have written my long-cherished teachings. Keep them
deep within your heart.
The eleventh day of the seventh month
Reply to the wife of the late Ueno
1. Lotus Sutra, chap. 11.
2. There are eight hot hells, each with sixteen subsidiary hells.
The hell of repeated rebirth for torture is the first of the hot
hells. There victims are slashed and pounded with swords and iron
staves, whereupon their body immediately regenerates; they thus
experience the same suffering repeatedly. The hell of black cords
is the second of the hot hells. There the occupants are either sawed
in half or slashed with red-hot axes. Suffering there is said to
be ten times greater than in the hell of repeated rebirth for torture.
Those who have committed the five cardinal sins are said to undergo
indescribable torture in the lowest and severest hell, the hell
of incessant suffering. The hell of the crimson lotus and the hell
of the great crimson lotus are two of the eight cold hells. They
are so called because the intense cold there makes one double over
until one's back splits open and the bloody flesh blossoms like
a crimson lotus flower.
3. Lotus Sutra, chap. 3.
4. Ibid., chap. 25. "His name" indicates the name of Bodhisattva
Perceiver of the World's Sounds. The quotation that follows is from
5. Great Concentration and Insight. This appears in Chang-an's
6. A rephrasing of a passage in chapter 10 of the Lotus Sutra that
reads, "Great pity and compassion are the [Thus Come One's]
room . . ."
7. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
8. The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom.
9. The Annotations on "The Words and Phrases of the Lotus
10. The Diamond Scalpel.
11. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
12. The source of this quotation is unknown. Concerning the nine
consciousnesses, the first five relate to the five senses of sight,
hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The sixth consciousness integrates
the perceptions of the first five and renders them into a coherent
image. The ninth, or amala-consciousness, free from all karmic impurity,
is the fundamental purifying force that is the Buddha nature.
This writing by Nichiren was taken from:
Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. Trans. The Gosho Translation
Committee. Tokyo, Japan: Soka Gakkai, 1999.
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