Nichiren—Japan’s Supreme Votary of the Lotus Sutra

Good afternoon to all of you. I wish to thank the master of ceremonies for such a kind introduction. I am Eijun Ishii, currently serving as chief priest of Hoshoji Temple in Yokosuka.
I would like to thank all of you, the Hokkeko members from overseas countries for making the arduous journey to the Head Temple, haven of the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and of High Priest Nikken Shonin, in order to attend this Overseas Believers Summer Study Tozan. Approximately 1,600 people from 14 nations have made this tozan pilgrimage. I have no doubt that Nichiren Daishonin truly is glad to observe this demonstration of your pure and yearning faith.
Your efforts certainly are no less admirable than those of Abutsu-bo, who crossed raging seas, mountains, and valleys in order to pay reverence to the Daishonin at Mt. Minobu. Your struggles are no less commendable than the exertions of Nichimyo-ama, who carried her infant on her back in order to visit the Daishonin on Sado Island. It is impossible to estimate the blessings that come from traveling such long distances as you have to assemble here at the Head Temple Taisekiji, in order to attend the Gokaihi Ceremony, the various lectures, and other study tozan events.
I hope that this Summer Study Tozan will allow you to deepen your faith. I also pray that the bonds between you, as fellow believers, will strengthen as you eat, sleep, and carry out your practice of Buddhism together. The Daishonin’s Buddhism is not only the supreme, but also the only correct Law capable of bestowing true happiness and peace upon all the people of the Latter Day of the Law. The sacred teachings handed down to us through the Daishonin’s various writings specifically clarify that his Buddhism will spread throughout the entire world without fail. For example, in “Letter to Misawa,” the Daishonin writes:

…only this one great Law shall spread all over the world.
(MW-3, p. 256)

In the Gosho, “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” he again states:

…he will establish the true object of worship represented by the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo and bring it to the entire world.
(MW-1, p. 112)

I have been told that during the past ten years, (1991-2000) 23,805 overseas members of Nichiren Shoshu have made the pilgrimage to the Head Temple to pray before the Dai-Gohonzon.
I truly hope that each one of you will contemplate the fortune of being alive and having the opportunity to encounter the Dai-Gohonzon at this time, when we are witnessing the spread of the mystic Law (Myoho) not only in Japan, but in every nation of the world. I also pray that you will reaffirm your determination to strive in your daily Buddhist practice.
I ask that you contribute to the betterment of your homelands and birthplaces, as upstanding citizens and members of society whose lives are based on the Gohonzon, and thereby show brilliant proof of the mystic Law. Rest assured that a single person’s vigorous practice of faith has a direct effect on worldwide kosen-rufu and global peace.
I am greatly honored today to be able to lecture before this audience of overseas Hokkeko members. During this brief hour, I hope that you will lend me your kind attention as I speak to you on today’s theme, “Nichiren—Japan’s Supreme Votary of the Lotus Sutra.” I will begin with a passage from “Letter toJakunichi-bo,” which reads:

Nichiren is the supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. In this land only he has lived the twenty-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter.
(MW-1, p. 235)

Encouraging Devotion

As you may know already, the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra describes the persecutions that will befall the votary of the Lotus Sutra who propagates the mystic Law during the Latter Day. The passage that I just quoted from “Letter to Jakunichi-bo” is Nichiren Daishonin’s passionate affirmation, as the True Buddha of the Latter Day, that he is the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan, because he, alone, has lived the 20-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter.
The term “votary of the Lotus Sutra” refers to a person who practices Buddhism in accordance with the Lotus Sutra’s doctrines, and teaches the Lotus Sutra to others. There were other votaries of the Lotus Sutra before Nichiren Daishonin, but I will save that issue for later discussion.
In any event, Nichiren Daishonin claims to be “the supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan” because he has read the 20-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion chapter with his very life.
Although the passage from “Letter to Jakunichi-bo states,” “Nichiren is the supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan,” there are passages in “The Selectionof the Time” (MW-3, p. 111) and “Reply to Betto Gobo” (Gosho, p. 729) that read: “I, Nichiren, am the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in the entire world.” This means that the phrase, “supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan” carries the exact same weight as “foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in the entire world.”
These passages conclude that nowhere in the world is there a votary of the Lotus Sutra who surpasses Nichiren Daishonin. We can therefore consider these passages to be declarations that emanate from the Daishonin’s profound life condition and conviction within the context of the transmission of the Heritage of Buddhism.
For this reason, the Daishonin further states in “The Selection of the Time”:

There can be no room to doubt that I, Nichiren, am the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in all of Japan. Indeed, from this we may assume that, even in China and India and throughout the entire world, there is no one who can stand side by side with me.
(MW-3, p. 163)

High Priest Nikken Shonin gives the following profound commentary on the phrase, “foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in all of Japan”:

The true meaning of “the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in all of Japan” is that neither Tiantai of China nor Shakyamuni of India “can stand side by side” with Nichiren Daishonin. What makes the Daishonin the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in the entire world is the fact that he is now actively propagating Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Through Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nichiren Daishonin is offering redemption from the sufferings of hell to all people born during the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law. This means that truly, all people, not only in Japan, but also throughout the entire world, can be rescued from the torments of hell.
(Collected Writings of Nikken Shonin, Series I, vol. 2, p. 665)

The profound reality that Nichiren Daishonin is the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, who possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent, is contained within the 14 Japanese characters that comprise the phrase “Nichiren is the supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan.” That reality is the realm of the Daishonin’s inner realization.
The proof that Nichiren Daishonin is the votary of the Lotus Sutra is clear from the fact that, with his own life, he perfectly matched the votary’s description as outlined in the 20-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion chapter. For this reason, the Daishonin makes the following statement in “The Opening of the Eyes”:

But then I recall the twenty lines of verse in the Kanji chapter of the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra….If I, Nichiren, had not been born in this land of Japan, then the words of the Buddha would have been a great prevarication.
(MW-2, p. 118)

The Twenty-Line Verse

It would be helpful if I examined the contents of the 20-line verse in the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter. But before I do that, I would like to answer the question, “For whom was the Lotus Sutra expounded?”
As you know, Shakyamuni expounded the Lotus Sutra over a period of eight years on Eagle Peak, 42 years after attaining the Way. A teaching in eight volumes and 28 chapters, the Lotus Sutra is said to be the true purpose for Shakyamuni’s advent into this world.
In a work called “The Essentials of the Lotus Sutra,” the Daishonin teaches that, on the surface, it would seem that Shakyamuni expounded the Lotus Sutra primarily as a means of illustrating the life condition of his own enlightenment to the people of his day, in order to lead them to enlightenment. The Daishonin asserts, however, that closer examination shows that the Lotus Sutra was intended for the Latter Day of the Law.
Meticulous scrutiny reveals that the Lotus Sutra divulges the course of action that our founder Nichiren Daishonin would take, making his advent as the True Buddha for the Latter Day of the Law in order to disseminate the Three Great Secret Laws.
Therefore, the Lotus Sutra is vitally relevant to the Latter Day of the Law in that it serves as testimony for the True Buddha of the Latter Day. For that reason, however, the Lotus Sutra, in and of itself, does not have the power to lead people to the attainment of enlightenment. That is why Nichiren Daishonin made the following statement in “The Teaching for the Latter Day”:

Now in the Latter Day of the Law, neither the Lotus Sutra nor the other sutras lead to enlightenment. Only Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo can do so.
(MW-3, p. 266)

The only way that you and I can attain enlightenment is by revering and practicing faith in the object of worship portrayed in the Lotus Sutra—that is, [the Gohonzon, the enlightened life of] the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.
People in general think that the Lotus Sutra was expounded for the sake of the people of Shakyamuni’s day, and believe the sutra offers the same benefits in the Latter Day of the Law as it did during the Buddha’s lifetime. However, this concept is a gross misinterpretation of the truth.
I would like you thoroughly to grasp the fact that the Lotus Sutra has two distinct lines of transmission. The literal interpretation of the Lotus Sutra is the Buddhism of the harvest, and was meant for the people of Shakyamuni’s day, as well as for those born during the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law. In contrast, the meaning hidden in the depths or the concealed rendition of the Lotus Sutra is the Buddhism of sowing, and was expounded for the people of the Latter Day of the Law. It is imperative that we read the words of the Lotus Sutra itself, as well as the Gosho. It is Nichiren Shoshu alone that correctly transmits this teaching. This is a profoundly secret teaching that those outside of the lineage of Nichiren Shoshu cannot fully comprehend.
When we read the 20-line verse from the Encouraging Devotion chapter of the Lotus Sutra, we can see that the verse refers to the person of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. We can further reason that it is precisely because Nichiren Daishonin read this verse with his own life that he is the votary of the Lotus Sutra for the Latter Day of the Law.
At this juncture, I would like to discuss previous votaries of the Lotus Sutra, based upon the words of the sutra and the Gosho.
I would first like to refer to a period in the remote past called Three Thousand Dust-particle Kalpas (sanzen jindengo). At that time, 16 princes expounded a revolutionized version of the Lotus Sutra as taught by Great Universal Wisdom Buddha (Jpn. Daitsuchisho), and were thereby able to teach many people. These 16 princes could be called votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
Then, during the Middle Day of the Law of Awesome Sound King Buddha (Jpn. Ionno), Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Fukyo) expounded the following twenty-four Chinese character version of the Lotus Sutra:

I have profound reverence for you; I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you are all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood.
(Gosho, p. 500; The Lotus Sutra, Watson, p. 266)

With that phrase, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was able to carry out shakubuku. He also is considered to have been an exemplary votary of the Lotus Sutra. For this reason, Nichiren Daishonin writes the following in “A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life”:

I, Nichiren, am the votary of the Lotus Sutra. This is because I follow the same practice as Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.
(cf. MW-2, p. 258)

In this passage, the Daishonin expresses his admiration for Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. If we search for votaries of the Lotus Sutra down through the years of Shakyamuni’s life and after his passing, we find that Nichiren Daishonin makes the following comment in “The Votary of the Lotus Sutra Will Meet Persecution”:

During the entire lifetime of the Buddha as well as the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the Law that followed after his death, there were only three votaries of the Lotus Sutra. They were Shakyamuni Buddha himself, Tiantai, and Dengyo.
(MW-6, p. 80)

As this passage states, there had been three votaries of the Lotus Sutra, representing India, China, and Japan, respectively. While Shakyamuni made his advent in India, Tiantai was born in China, and Dengyo, in Japan.
Here, I would like to bring to your attention an issue that might be considered a contradiction in terms. As I mentioned earlier, the term “votary of the Lotus Sutra” is usually used to mean a person who “practices” or “trains” according to the Lotus Sutra. If we were to use that definition of a votary, then Shakyamuni, a Buddha, would not fall into that category.
If that is the case, then why did the Daishonin include Shakyamuni among the three votaries that he mentioned in “The Votary of the Lotus Sutra Will MeetPersecution”? High Priest Nikken Shonin clarified this matter in the following way:

Shakyamuni would not normally be called a votary of the Lotus Sutra. That is because the person known as Shakyamuni is a Buddha. The Daishonin called him a “votary” within the context of Shakyamuni’s “practice” of expounding the Lotus Sutra, the Law that reigns supreme among all of his lifetime teachings and leads ordinary people to the immediate attainment of enlightenment. It is because Shakyamuni expounded the Lotus Sutra that the Daishonin also includes him as a votary of the Lotus Sutra.
(Collected Writings of Nikken Shonin, Series I, vol. 2, pp. 663-4)

In contrast with Shakyamuni, the Great Teachers Tiantai and Dengyo were mere practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.
In “Reply to Toki-dono,” the Daishonin writes:

It is likely that Nichiren of Awa has inherited the Hokke sect from the three masters [Shakyamuni, Tiantai, and Dengyo] in order to further its dissemination in the Latter Day of the Law. Thus, adding one more to the three, in the three countries [of India, China, and Japan], the masters number four.
(Gosho, p. 679)

This passage proclaims that Shakyamuni, Tiantai, Dengyo, and Nichiren Daishonin are the four votaries of the Lotus Sutra. But we must understand that this statement is a generalization at best, for in the final analysis, only Nichiren Daishonin is the true “votary of the Lotus Sutra” for the Latter Day of the Law.
In the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni describes in minute detail how the “votary of the Lotus Sutra” would behave during the Latter Day of the Law.
That description verifies that the true “votary of the Lotus Sutra” was to make his advent during the Latter Day of the Law. Moreover, if a votary, whose persecutions were to exceed those of Shakyamuni, had not made his advent during the Latter Day of the Law, then the Lotus Sutra would have proven to be a falsehood, and the Buddha would have been guilty of perpetrating a lie.
Making his advent in the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin clearly conducted himself in accord with the scriptural description of the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The emergence of the “three powerful enemies,” foretold in the sutra, furthermore proves his authenticity.
The three powerful enemies are three groups of people who will persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra after the Buddha’s passing in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law.
In the Gosho, the three powerful enemies are called by various names. For example, in “Letter to Shimoyama,” they are simply called “the three groups”; in “The Opening of the Eyes,” they are called “the three powerful enemies”; and in the Gosho, “On Practicing According to the Buddha’s Teachings,” they are known as “the three kinds of enemies.”
As I mentioned earlier, there is a detailed description of the three powerful enemies in the 20-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This 20-line verse section of the Chinese version of the Encouraging Devotion chapter is structured so that each line is composed of four five-character phrases. This means that the entire 20 lines are composed of 400 Chinese characters.
If we use the Jigage section of our sutra book as a means of comparing this type of literary structure, Ji ga toku bud’rai makes up the first phrase, Sho kyo sho kos-shu forms the second, Mu-ryo hyaku-sen-man composes the third and Oku-sai-a-so-gi constitutes the fourth. Together, these four phrases comprise one line of verse. This is why the verse section of the Encouraging Devotion chapter is said to be composed of 20 lines.
In this 20-line verse section, great multitudes of bodhisattvas promise to disseminate the true Law without succumbing to persecution. This section begins:

We beg you not to worry. After the Buddha has passed into extinction, in an age of fear and evil we will preach far and wide.
(The Lotus Sutra, Watson, p. 193)

This initial passage of verse is a general summary of the promise that the entire group of bodhisattvas made earlier to propagate the Lotus Sutra without fail during the Latter Day of the Law.
Following this, the verse section goes on to give a detailed description of what the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law will be like.

The Three Powerful Enemies

At this point, I would like to give you definitions of the three powerful enemies. The first of these powerful enemies are extremely arrogant lay people (zokushu zojoman); the second are extremely arrogant, heretical priests (domon zojoman); and the third, extremely arrogant false sages (sensho zojoman). The names of these three groups are not to be found in the Lotus Sutra, but were coined by the Great Teacher Miaole in his Annotations on the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke mongu ki). As the titles suggest, these groups represent three types of arrogant people.
I will give a more in depth explanation of these three groups, but it is important to realize that the words “extremely arrogant” (zojoman) are appended to all three.
Zojoman refers to the kind of arrogance whereby one has become so egotistical that he has convinced himself that he has gained supreme enlightenment, when in fact he has not. This kind of person thinks he is superior and believes that he always is in the right. He refuses to accept the validity of the true Law, and approaches the true Law and its devotees with hatred, animosity, and oppression.
The first of the three powerful enemies is extremely arrogant lay people (zokushu zojoman). The term zokushu refers to people outside of the priesthood. A passage from the Encouraging Devotionchapter of Lotus Sutra states:

There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us and will attack us with swords and staves, but we will endure all these things.
(ibid.)

This passage relates that there will be lay people, uninformed about Buddhism, who will persecute cruelly the votary of the Lotus Sutra by degrading, denouncing and slandering him, and by wounding him with swords and beating him with staffs. Lay men and women during Nichiren Daishonin’s lifetime fall into this category.
The second group of powerful enemies is extremely arrogant, heretical priests (domon zojoman). The term domon (literally, “at the gate to the path”) refers to priests who practice Buddhism. The sutra states:

In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart.
(ibid.)

While the sutra uses the word biku, which is the Japanese pronunciation of the Sanskrit word bhikshu, meaning Buddhist priest, the Great Teacher Miaole uses the term domon zojoman to describe this enemy of the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
This passage tells us that during the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law, there will be priests who have mastered the craft of dishonesty, and whose hearts are crooked and full of flattery. These priests will believe that they have understood the most profound Buddhist doctrines, when in fact, they have not. They will, nonetheless, be terribly self-satisfied. Though they have been unable to attain enlightenment due to their own arrogance, these priests will have convinced themselves that they are enlightened. We should not forget that among this group, there are also those who feign enlightenment in order to deceive others. In “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin states:

When the Lotus Sutra speaks of the second type of enemy, “monks of that evil age,” it is referring to men like Honen who disregard the precepts and hold perverse views.
(MW-2, p. 186)

Essentially, domon zojoman indicates priests of heretical sects who, in their great arrogance, become brainwashed with mistaken ideas and slander the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
The third powerful enemy signifies extremely arrogant false sages (sensho zojoman). The word sen in sensho means “to act with inappropriate pride,” while sho means “sage.” Therefore, sensho means “to act with the pride of a sage without actually being one.”
A passage from the Encouraging Devotion chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads:

Or there will be forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement, who will claim they practice the true way, despising and looking down on all humankind. Greedy for profit and support, they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen and will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers. These men with evil in their hearts, constantly thinking of worldly affairs, will borrow the name of forest-dwelling monks and take delight in proclaiming our faults, saying things like this: “These monks are greedy for profit and support and therefore they preach non-Buddhist doctrines and fabricate their own scriptures to delude the people of the world. Because they hope to gain fame and renown thereby they make distinctions when preaching this sutra.” Because in the midst of the great assembly they constantly try to defame us, they will address the rulers, high ministers, Brahmans and householders, as well as the other monks, slandering and speaking evil of us, saying, “These are men of perverted views who preach non-Buddhist doctrines!”
(The Lotus Sutra, Watson, pp.193-4)

The Chinese word for “forest-dwelling” is aren’nya, which connotes “a wild land” or “a secluded place removed from human habitation.” The word for “clothing of patched rags” is no’e, which refers to a coarse garment worn by ascetics. This combination of lifestyle and dress is meant to show how assiduously an individual is pursuing his ascetic practice. The phrase “living in retirement” comes from the Chinese word kugen, which means the same thing as aren’nya.
In short, people of this group live in tranquil places secluded from the rest of the world, and purposely wear tattered priest’s robes. Believing that they are practicing the true Buddha path, they despise and condemn people who live in the “real” world. This kind of person is not the model of a sage. A Buddha’s original purpose is to save all living beings from suffering, and therefore, he spends all of his time with the people.
It is said that Shakyamuni himself visited Rajagriha 120 times, and as far as is known, stayed at Shravasti at least 910 times.
Needless to say, Nichiren Daishonin also spent his life struggling among the masses.
The next section of the above-mentioned passage, beginning, “Greedy for profit and support…” indicates attachment to fame, fortune, and money. The white-robed laymen to whom they preach the Law are people of power and influence. This prestigious image causes people to revere these monks as though they were sages who possess the six transcendental powers. However, the hearts of these monks are impure, obsessed with desires of the flesh. [To cover up their own weakness,] they adopt the title of hermit ascetic, while gaining satisfaction from pointing out the imperfections of the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
The sutra explains the behavior of these monks, who constantly go around among the masses denouncing those who embrace the true Law. They slander and cause trouble for the votary of the Lotus Sutra by maliciously gossiping to the sovereign, his ministers, Brahmans, members of the Buddhist laity, and other priests by saying, “He’s a heretic! He teaches non-Buddhist doctrines!”
If one were to make a list of those who fit into the category of extremely arrogant false sages during Nichiren Daishonin’s lifetime, the names of people like Ryokan of Gokurakuji Temple and Doryu of Kenchoji Temple would have to be among them.
Ryokan, the chief priest of Gokurakuji Temple, was particularly active as the invisible ringleader behind the persecution of the Daishonin’s followers. He was an evil priest of the Shingon-Ritsu sect, and well connected to the Hojo family, which was extremely powerful at that time. Ryokan built a medical facility in the Kuwagayatsu section of Kamakura, and acting as though he were the very embodiment of compassion, was even said to be a living Buddha.
Moreover, he instituted many public works projects such as building roads and bridges, establishing checkpoints and collecting rice in lieu of cash revenues. However, he actually used many of these projects to line his own pockets, gain political power and attain his own personal goals. From the abundance of imported porcelain excavated from the ruins of Gokurakuji Temple, we know that in comparison with the poverty suffered by the general masses, Ryokan indulged himself in the greatest of luxuries.
Furthermore, in his attempts to have Nichiren Daishonin murdered, Ryokan was responsible for such great persecutions as the attempted execution of the Daishonin at Tatsunokuchi and his exile to Sado Island. Working behind the scenes, he tried to have the military government oppress the Daishonin’s followers in various and sundry ways.
The conduct of the evil priest Ryokan represents the epitome of an extremely arrogant false sage. The sutra’s indictment, “…they will address the rulers, high ministers …” is especially true of Ryokan, because he incited the rulers, high ministers and other people in authority through his slander of the votary of the Lotus Sutra. It is a special character trait of people who belong to the category of extremely arrogant false sages to manipulate and abuse authority in order to instigate persecution.
Another passage from the Encouraging Devotion chapter of the Lotus Sutra characterizes, in general, the persecutions that the three powerful enemies will level at the votary of the Lotus Sutra.

The evil monks of that muddied age, failing to understand the Buddha’s expedient means, how he preaches the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, will confront us with foul language and angry frowns; again and again we will be banished.
(The Lotus Sutra, Watson, p. 195)

The phrase “again and again we will be banished” is consistent with the two occasions when Nichiren Daishonin was exiled, once to Sado and once to Izu. This sutra passage provides ultimate and definitive proof that Nichiren Daishonin does indeed accord with the sutra’s prophecy about the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law.For this reason, Nichiren Daishonin makes the following statement in “The Opening of the Eyes”:

“Again and again we will be banished,” says the sutra. But if Nichiren had not been banished time and again for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, what would these words “again and again” have meant? Even Tiantai and Dengyo were not able to fulfill this prediction, that they would be banished “again and again,” much less was anyone else. But because I have been born at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, the “fearful and evil age” described in the sutra, I alone have been able to live these words.
(MW-2, p. 119)

The Supreme Votary

I have presented you with a brief discussion of the three powerful enemies. Only Nichiren Daishonin, the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, accorded with the 20-line verse of the Encouraging Devotion (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra without the slightest deviation, in that he endured persecution by the three powerful enemies while propagating the mystic Law. For this reason, the Daishonin makes the following proclamation in “Letter to Jakunichi-bo”:

Nichiren is the supreme votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. In this land only he has lived the 20-line verse of the Kanji chapter.
(MW-1, p. 235)

This passage demonstrates Nichiren Daishonin’s total conviction that he is undoubtedly the only votary of the Lotus Sutra who has read the Lotus Sutra with his very life.
However, as I mentioned earlier, in terms of Nichiren Daishonin’s own inner realization, the fact that he is “the votary of the Lotus Sutra” further demonstrates that he is the True Buddha of the infinite past of kuon-ganjo and the Master of Buddhism for the Latter Day. He is the Buddha who possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent. We can find proof of this fact in the following Gosho passages.
In “The Unity of Husband and Wife,” he states: “…the votary of the Lotus Sutra is like the sun, the moon, King Bonten, or the Buddha…” (MW-5, p. 156). He also states the following in “The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith”: “The votary of the Lotus Sutra is the Buddha of eternal life…” (MW-1, p. 128)

In “Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” he comments:
If even the Buddha had difficulty bearing up under such persecutions, how can ordinary human beings be expected to bear them, particularly when these troubles are destined to be even greater than those that occurred during the Buddha’s lifetime?….If persecutions greater than those that arose during the Buddha’s lifetime keep occurring again and again to someone who is not guilty of the slightest fault, then one should realize that that person is a true votary of the Lotus Sutra in the age after the Buddha’s passing.
(MW-6, pp. 184-5)

A passage from the “Orally Transmitted Teachings” reads:

The votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law is endowed with the three unadorned properties of the Buddha.[1] The honorific title of these three unadorned properties is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
(Gosho, p. 1765)

The above Gosho passages indicate that the inner identity of the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law is truly the Buddha. Another passage from the same document reads:

The true object of worship is the very life of the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
(Gosho, p. 1773)

This passage reveals that the entity of the votary of the Lotus Sutra is, in and of itself, the object of worship for people in the Latter Day of the Law. To rephrase this idea, we might say, “The votary is the True Buddha, and the Object of Worship is the votary.”
Today [August 2000], as High Priest Nikken Shonin stands at the vanguard to refute heresy and reveal the truth, I hope that all of you will be able to discern the true nature of the three powerful enemies. Without fearing them, I hope that you will chant ever-increasing Daimoku, and work relentlessly to break through the obstacles that these enemies create, confident that today is another golden opportunity to expiate our slanders of the Law. With that confidence, I hope that you will progress powerfully in your practice of Buddhism.
High Priest Nikken Shonin states:

We must not believe in and embrace the true Law for ourselves alone. Real benefit lies in offering the true Law to those with whom we have established a significant connection. This is the path to the attainment of enlightenment that accords with the Daishonin’s heart.
(Collected Writings of Nikken Shonin, Series I, vol. 2, p. 249)

I hope that you will etch this instruction into your hearts, treasuring every moment of every day. I also hope that with abundant Daimoku and a resolute practice, each of you will work to advance further and further along the Buddha path, praying for the peace of your respective nations and your personal attainment of enlightenment.
[1] Three unadorned properties of the Buddha: The eternally existing and uncreated three enlightened properties of the True Buddha.

Home    About    Ceremonies    FAQs    Activities    Basics of Practice    Publications    Tozan    Contact Us