When I asked him about what you told me the other
day, I found it to be exactly as you said. You should therefore
strive in faith more than ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus
Sutra. Listen with the ears of Shih K’uang and observe with the
eyes of Li Lou.1
In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus
Sutra will appear without fail. The greater the hardships befalling
him, the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith.
Doesn’t a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? All rivers
flow into the sea, but does the sea turn back their waters? The
currents of hardship pour into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush
against its votary. The river is not rejected by the ocean; nor
does the votary reject suffering. Were it not for the flowing rivers,
there would be no sea. Likewise, without tribulation there would
be no votary of the Lotus Sutra. As T’ien-t’ai stated, "The
various rivers flow into the sea, and logs make a fire burn more
You should realize that it is because of a profound
karmic relationship from the past that you can teach others even
a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra. The sutra reads, “Nor will
they hear the correct Law -- such people are difficult to save.”3
The "correct Law"means the Lotus Sutra; it is difficult
to save those who are deaf to the teachings of this sutra.
A passage from the "Teacher of the Law"chapter
reads: "If one of these good men or good women [in the time
after I have passed into extinction is able to secretly expound
the Lotus Sutra to one person, even one phrase of it, then you should
know that] he or she is the envoy of the Thus Come One. "This
means that anyone who teaches others even a single phrase of the
Lotus Sutra is the envoy of the Thus Come One, whether that person
be priest or layman, nun or laywoman. You are already a lay practitioner
and therefore one of the "good men" described in the sutra.
One who listens to even a sentence or phrase of the sutra and cherishes
it deep in one’s heart may be likened to a ship that crosses the
sea of the sufferings of birth and death. The Great Teacher Miao-lo
stated, "Even a single phrase cherished deep in one’s heart
will without fail help one reach the opposite shore. To ponder one
phrase and practice it is to exercise navigation."4
Only the ship of Myoho-renge-kyo enables one to cross the sea of
the sufferings of birth and death.
The Lotus Sutra speaks of "someone finding a
ship in which to cross the water."5 This "ship"
might be described as follows: As a shipbuilder of infinitely profound
wisdom, the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment, the lord of
teachings, gathered the lumber of the four flavors and eight teachings,
planed it by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut
and assembled the planks, forming a perfect unity of both right
and wrong,6 and completed the craft by driving home the
spikes of the one true teaching that is comparable to the flavor
of ghee. Thus he launched the ship upon the sea of the sufferings
of birth and death. Unfurling its sails of the three thousand realms
on the mast of the one true teaching of the Middle Way, driven by
the fair wind of "the true aspect of all phenomena,"7
the vessel surges ahead, carrying aboard all people who can "gain
entrance through faith alone."8 The Thus Come One
Shakyamuni is at the helm, the Thus Come One Many Treasures takes
up the mooring rope, and the four bodhisattvas led by Superior Practices
row quickly, matching one another as perfectly as a box and its
lid. This is the ship in "a ship in which to cross the water."
Those who are able to board it are the disciples and lay supporters
of Nichiren. Believe this wholeheartedly. When you visit Shijo Kingo,
please have an earnest talk with him. I will write you again in
With my deep respect,
The twenty-eighth day of the fourth month
To Shiiji Shiro
1. Shih K'uang, in Chinese legend, was a court musician whose sense
of hearing was so keen that he could judge the quality of a newly
cast bell, where ordinary musicians could not. Li Lou's sight was
so acute that he could see the tip of a hair at a hundred paces.
2. Great Concentration and Insight.
3. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
4. The Annotations on "The Words and Phrases of the Lotus
Sutra." "The opposite shore" represents nirvana,
or enlightenment, while this shore where we live represents illusion.
5. Lotus Sutra, chap. 23.
6. "Forming a perfect unity of both right and wrong" means
that both good and evil are eternally inherent in life. Provisional
sutras hold that wicked people cannot attain enlightenment, but
the Lotus Sutra reveals that even such people possess the Buddha
nature, giving the example of Devadatta attaining Buddhahood.
7. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
8. Ibid., chap. 3.
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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