What are the Five Guides for Propagation?
Daishonin formulated the Five Guides for Propagation, also known as the Five Maxims
or the five doctrines for religious propagation, as a means of understanding
and evaluating the Buddha’s teachings, based on their relative similarities and
differences. The five guides are: 1) the teaching; 2) people’s capacity; 3) the
age; 4) the country; and, 5) the sequence of propagation.
Daishonin discusses the Five Guides for Propagation in the following excerpt
from “Conversation Bbetween
a Sage and an Unenlightened Man”:
Now, in widely propagating the
Buddhist teachings and bringing salvation to all people, one must first take
into consideration the teaching, the capacity of the people, the time, the
country, and the sequence of propagation.
(Gosho, p. 402; MW-5, p. 102)
The Daishonin teaches that relief of the people’s
suffering through dissemination of the Buddha’s true teaching requires a strict
examination of the doctrinal content of the established sects, using the
criteria of teaching, capacity, age, country and sequence of propagation as
guidelines for evaluation. These Five Guides serve as fundamental principles
for religious critique and choice, and greatly impact the determination of
Daishonin clarifies the basis for his most important doctrines in writings such
as “The Opening of the Eyes,” “The True Object of Worship,” “The Selection of
the Time,” and “Repaying Debts of Gratitude.” One should note, however, that
the Five Guides for Propagation are at the root of the Daishonin’s doctrinal
rationale in all of these works.
the True Buddha for the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin made use of
his mastery of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism to endow the Five Guides for Propagation with
criteria that allow people to discern the relative superiority of the Buddha’s
teachings. At the same time, the Five Guides explain how religions relate to
people’s capacities, the age, the country and the country’s religious history.
religious perspective other than the Daishonin’s Five Guides for Propagation
offers such a complete understanding of the differences between the teachings
that Shakyamuni expounded over the course of fifty years. Partiality, personal
opinion, and shallow, self-satisfied perspectives mar the rationales
underpinning the other major Buddhist sects.
To take a case in point, a priest named Honen
established the Pure Land (Ch. Jing-tu; Jpn. Jodo) sect in Japan. The Daishonin
condemned this sect, warning that the Pure Land teachings lead to the Hell of
Incessant Suffering. Honen seems to have been drawn to the Pure Land teachings
out of a concern for the people’s capacities. He claimed that because the Lotus
Sutra belongs to the “difficult to practice path,” also known as the Sacred Way
teachings, it was beyond the capacities of the Japanese people. He,
therefore, told people to discard the Lotus
Sutra. He also asserted that only the Nembutsu, which belongs to the “easy to
practice path,” matches the capacities of the Japanese people, and,
therefore, argued that people in the Latter Day
of the Law should embrace the Pure Land sect.
The terms, “easy to practice path,”
and “difficult to practice path,”
were coined by a Chinese priest named T’an-luan, the founder of the Chinese
Pure Land school. Honen later emphasized these concepts in a work entitled The Sole Selection of Nembutsu (Senchaku-shu),
and used them as the authority upon which he discarded the Lotus Sutra.
this instance, (and there are other
Honen established the Pure Land sect by resting his entire argument on only one
of the Five Guides for Propagation—the people’s capacities. However, Iin
so doing, however, he totally ignored the issue
of the relative superiority of the Buddha’s teachings, which is the most
important of the Five Guides concerning a person’s ability to attain
Buddhahood. Honen’s thesis is a misguided theory that can never
can lead to Buddhahood.
Shingon sect uses the Ten States of Mind
(Jujushin) and other related works as primary sources for the sect’s doctrinal
stance. However, theHowever, the
author of the Ten Stages of Mind, a
priest named Kobo, manipulated ideas that originated in Treatise on the Mind Aspiring for Buddhahood (Bodaishin-ron),
attributed to Nagarjuna. Kobo twisted Nagarjuna’s words to formulate a
frivolous ranking system that places the Shingon sect’s Mahavairochana Sutra (Dainichi-kyo) first, the Flower Garland
Sutra (Kegon-kyo) second and the
Lotus Sutra, inferior to the Mahavairochana Sutra by Kobo’s standards, third.
Be that as it may, there is not one shred of
evidence in the sutras themselves to document Kobo’s claims. Shingon is an
erroneous doctrine, conceived of personal whim and shallow, self-satisfied
perspective. That is why the Daishonin warned that Shingon would destroy the
The Significance of the Five Guides for Propagation
Teacher T’ien-t’ai organized Shakyamuni’s lifetime teachings according to such
systems as the Five Periods and Eight Teachings, and the Three Standards of
Comparison. His research led him to the conclusion that the Lotus Sutra is not
only Shakyamuni’s supreme teaching, but also the only one that leads to
The Daishonin clarified
that the teaching best suited to the Latter Day of the Law (this age) is the
Mystic Law (Myoho), the seed of
Buddhahood that Shakyamuni concealed within the depths of the Life Span (Juryo; sixteenth) chapter, in the
Essential(Honmon)Teaching (honmon) of the Lotus Sutra.
The Daishonin established the Mystic Law by means of the Three Great Secret
Laws, which consist of the Object of Worship, the High Sanctuary and the
Daimoku of the Essential Teaching.
The Three Great
Secret Laws are the three tenets upon which the Daishonin established his
In “The Essentials of the Lotus
Sutra” (“Hokke shuyo-sho”), one of
his Ten Major Writings, the Daishonin teaches:
Question: In the more than two
thousand years since the passing of the Buddha, what is the secret Law that
Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo failed to transmit?
Answer: It is the Object of
Worship, the High Sanctuary and the five characters of the Daimoku of the Essential
(Gosho, p. 736)
Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan
Shonin offers the following insight on this passage in a work entitled:Exegesis on “The Essentials of the Lotus Sutra” (Hokke shuyo-sho mondan).
What the Daishonin is referring
to here are the Three Great Secret Laws. They are the three tenets of this
sect. Embodying the True Entity of the Buddhism of Sowing for the Latter Day,
they are the true reason for our founder Nichiren Daishonin’s advent. Of all
the profound doctrines of this sect, the Three Great Secret Laws are the
deepest. Our school possesses no secret greater.
(Collected Exegeses on the
Gosho by Nichikan Shonin, p. 531)
writing entitled Exegesis on “Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” Nichikan
Shonin discusses the relationship between the Five Guides for Propagation and
the three tenets of this sect:
speaking, the great guide that our founder the Daishonin propagated consists of
the three tenets of this sect and the Five Guides for Religious Propagation.
They comprise the eight doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu. While the Five Guides for
Religious Propagation serve as vehicles for doctrinal explanation, the three
tenets embody the principles themselves. For that reason, it is proper that one
should first master the Five Guides for Propagation.
(ibid., p. 463)
In other words,
the Five Guides for Propagation represent a way of classifying the Buddha’s
teachings. The purpose of the Five Guides is to explain that the three tenets
of Nichiren Shoshu (the Three Great Secret Laws) comprise the supreme Law by
which all people born in the Latter Day of the Law can attain Buddhahood within
a single lifetime, just as they are.
demonstrates why it is important for us to understand the intimate relationship
between the Five Guides for Propagation and the three tenets of this sect.
revealed the Three Great Secrets Laws, which are: the Object of
Worship, the High Sanctuary, and the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching, by
means of the Five Guides for Propagation—the teaching, people’s capacities, the
age, the country and the sequence of propagation. He thereby demonstrated that
the Three Great Secret Laws comprise the supreme Law that encompasses all
others, and stands as the world’s finest and truest teaching.
It is vital,
therefore, that as true disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, we priests and lay
members of Nichiren Shoshu study the Five Guides and properly spread the Three
Great Secret Laws, the three tenets of this sect, throughout the world.