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The Dharma Flower Sutra seen through the Oral Transmission of Nichiren Daishōnin:The Thirteenth Chapter on Exhorting the Disciples to Receive and Hold to the Buddha Teaching

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The Dharma Flower Sutra
seen through the Oral Transmission of
Nichiren Daishōnin


The first important point, with regard to exhorting the disciples to receive and hold to the Buddha teaching.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the verb “to exhort” is applied to the concept of convincing others to follow the teaching of the Dharma. “To receive” and to “hold to” refer to our own personal practice.


At that time, the completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, Bodhisattva Mahāsattva), Sovereign Remedy (Yaku’ ō, Bhaishajya-rāja) and Great Joy in Expounding (Daigyōsetsu, Mahāpratibhāna), along with their coherent following (kenzoku) of twenty thousand bodhisattvas, all made their oath in front of the Buddha: “All we desire is that the Buddha need not feel the concern as to whether after his extinction into nirvana we will not reverently hold to, read and recite, as well as expound this sutra. In that ominous and corrupt age, the good roots of sentient beings will become greedy for lucrative offerings, so that their good roots will grow no further, and they will distance themselves from and become separated from the emancipation of the Buddha teaching. Although it may be difficult to convert people through teaching, yet we must kindle our powers of forbearance, so as to read and recite, hold to and expound, copy out and make various kinds of offering to this sutra, without begrudging our bodies or lives.”


The second important point, on the final phrase in the above sutric text, “without begrudging our bodies or lives”.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the wordbodies” refers to the dharmas of physicality, and the wordlife” is a dharma of the psyche. Here we have the concept of “without begrudging our bodies or lives”, both in principle and in actual fact. When people who do the practices of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) have their fields and rice paddies taken away by force, then this is “without begrudging our bodies or lives” in principle. When the very roots of life are cut away, then this is “without begrudging our bodies or lives” in a practical sense.

Now Nichiren and those that follow him reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō). In such a way, they neither begrudge their bodies nor lives either in theory or in actual practice.


At that time, there were in the assembly five hundred individuals who had attained the highest fruition of the individual vehicle, who had received the proclamation of their future enlightenment from the Buddha, whom they addressed, saying, “World Honoured One, we would like to swear an oath to propagate this sutra widely in foreign countries.”

Furthermore, there were eight thousand disciples who were beyond the stage of learning and had also received the announcement of their future Buddhahood from the Tathāgata. They rose from the place where they were sitting, put the palms of their hands together in reverence, turned towards the Buddha, and made this vow, “World Honoured One, we too will expound this sutra in other dimensions of existence.”

What is the reason for this? It is because the people in this Dimension that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu) are base-minded, malicious; they are fundamentally arrogant; their merits are scant and wanting; they are prone to anger, as well as being grandiloquent bootlickers, whose thinking has no real consistency.


The third important point, on the final reference to the people of the Dimension that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu), “whose thinking has no real consistency”.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) states with regard to the passage, “the people of the Dimension that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu), whose thinking has no real consistency”, entails that, if one were to read the text of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), which is the foremost of all sutras, as though it were only in third place, or to read this sutric text, which is the most important of all, as though it were the most negligible, these are all ways of thinking that have no consistency. (The reason it is the most important of all is because, in this sutra, relativity (, shūnyatā) is not static, but has the same mechanism of the lotus plant (Dharma Flower), which is why existence moves in a forward direction.)

Or even if one were to say that the one instant of thought containing three thousand existential spaces (which is the essential concept of this sutra, along with the lotus plant-like mechanism of the entirety of existence, i.e., the Dharma Flower) and that such all-embracing perceptions are to be found in the Flower Garland Sutra (Kegon, Avatāmsaka) or the Sutra on the Sunlight that Pervades Everywhere (Dai Nichi Kyō, Mahāvairochana Sutra), these are all ways of thinking that have no consistency. (The Sutra on the Sunlight that Pervades Everywhere (Dai Nichi Kyō, Mahāvairochana Sutra) is the principal sutra of the Tantric and Mantric School (Shingon), which sutra admits that people of the two vehicles, i.e., intellectuals (shōmon, shrāvaka) and people who are partially enlightened due to a profound search for the meaning of existence (engaku, hyakushibutsu, pratyekabuddha), can attain enlightenment. But it does not clarify that the Buddha is enlightened in the ever-present infinite in time (kuon ganjo). Our school conceives Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō as life itself.)

Or even if one were to try and insinuate the idea of opening up one’s inherent Buddha nature, with our persons just as they are, into the Sutra on the Sunlight that Pervades Everywhere (Dai Nichi Kyō, Mahāvairochana Sutra), these are all ways of thinking that have no consistency.

Now Nichiren and those that follow him reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō), so that their thinking really becomes consistent.


Then, at that time, there was the natural aunt of the Buddha, Maka Hajadai (Mahā Prajāpatî), along with six thousand clergywomen (bhikkunī) who were all beyond the stage of learning. She rose from her seat, intently placed the palms of her hands together, and looked up with veneration to the face of the Buddha, without taking her eyes off him. (Shākyamuni’s maternal aunt was also called Kyōdonmi (Gautami) and was responsible for bringing up Shākyamuni as a child.)

At that moment, Shākyamuni addressed his aunt and said, “Why do you stare at the Tathāgata in such a heavy-hearted way? Is it because, in the deepest depths of your mind, you are sad because I have not pronounced your name to confer the prediction of your attainment of the unexcelled, correct, and all-embracing enlightenment?

Kyōdonmi (Gautami), I was just explaining that all the people who exert themselves to attain the highest stage of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna) through listening to the Buddha (shōmon, shrāvaka) have already received the declaration of their future enlightenment. Now, if you wish to know the announcement of your future enlightenment in detail, in future ages and in a future dimension, you will become in the midst of the Dharma teachings of the sixty-eight thousands of myriads of myriads of Buddhas who are the teachers of the all-embracing Dharma, you will become the teacher of the Dharma for six thousand nuns who are beyond the stage of study. In this way, you will gradually fulfil the bodhisattva path, and you will certainly reach Buddhahood. Your name will be Tathāgata Apparition of Joy for All Sentient Beings. You will have the ten titles of a BuddhaWorthy of Offerings, Correctly and Universally Enlightened, With a Knowledge and Conduct that is Perfect, Completely Free from the Cycles of Living and Dying, Endowed with a Complete Understanding of the Realms of Existence, Lord Supreme, The Master who brings the Passions and Delusions into Harmonious Control, The Teacher of Humankind and the deva (ten), The Buddha, and World Honoured One.

“Kyōdonmi (Gautami), this Buddha Apparition of Joy for All Sentient Beings will in turn confer the announcement of the unexcelled, correct, and all-embracing enlightenment on the six thousand bodhisattvas in his retinue.”

There and then, the mother of Ragora (Rahula), the fully ordained nun (bhikkunī) Yashudara (Yashodarā) was thinking to herself: “Of all these announcements of the future Buddhahood that have been made, only my name has not been itemised.”

The Buddha then said to Yashudara (Yashodarā): “In an age that is to come, among all the hundreds of thousands of myriads of myriads of Dharmas of the Buddhas, you will be doing the practices of the bodhisattvas, where you will become a great teacher of the Dharma. Gradually you will fulfill the path of Buddhahood, and, in the country of Goodness (Zenkoku), you will attain the fruition of total enlightenment. You will be called the Tathāgata Fully Endowed with Thousands of Myriads of Distinguishing Features of Light, Correctly and Universally Enlightened With a Knowledge and Conduct that is Perfect, Completely Understanding of the Realms of Existence, Lord Supreme, The Master who Brings the Passions and Delusions into Harmonious Control, The teacher of Humankind and the deva (ten), The Buddha, and the World Honoured One. The lifespan of this Buddha will be uncountable, innumerable kalpas long.”

Then, at that time, the nun (bhikkunī) Maka Hajadai (Mahā Prajāpatî) and the nun (bhikkunī) Yashudara (Yashodarā), along with their respective retinues, were all filled with joy at this announcement that had no antecedent. They immediately recited this metric hymn before the Buddha:

The World Honoured One
bestows a sense of peace
on both the deva (ten) and humankind.
On having heard the announcement
of our future enlightenment,
our minds are completely at peace.

After they had finished reciting this metric hymn, all the nuns (bhikkunī) addressed the Buddha, saying, “We too are capable of propagating this particular sutra, in dimensions that lie in other directions, broadly and widely.”

Then the World Honoured One gazed in the direction of the eighty myriads of myriads of completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva), all of whom were at the stage of not regressing from their actual attainment and had already set in motion the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. They were in possession of esoteric formulas that keep up the accomplishments of those who recite them (dhāranî).

They immediately rose from their seats and approached the Buddha. They single-mindedly put the palms of their hands together, all of them with the same thought in their minds: “If the World Honoured One were to command that we hold to and expound this sutra in exactly the same way as the Buddha taught it, then we would propagate it far and wide.”

Again they all thought to themselves, “The Buddha remains silent and makes no decree. What shall we do?”

Then, all the bodhisattvas in deference submitted to the Buddha’s intention.


The fourth important point, on the sentence, “Then, all the bodhisattvas in deference submitted to the Buddha’s intention . . . .”

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the intention of the Buddha is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. Now Nichiren and those that follow him reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō), thereby in deference submitting to the Buddha’s intention.


Besides, they wished to fulfil their original vows. Thereupon they went straight in front of the Buddha to utter the roar of the lion and to make their vow.


The fifth important point, on the phrase, “to utter the roar of the lion”.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the roar of the lion means the explanations of the Buddha. The explanation of the Dharma is the discourse on the white lotus flower-like mechanism of relativity (, shūnyatā) that underlies all existence, which in particular is expressed in the title and theme Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō.

The first syllable (shi), in the Japanese word for lion (shishi), is also the word for “teacher.” It is he who transmits the implications of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma). The second syllable in the word for lion (which is also shi and means child) is the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) as it is received by the disciples (who are like children). The roar is the sound of voices of both teacher and pupils together.

During the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni, the roar of the lion is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō).


They addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honoured One, after the Tathāgata has passed over into extinction of nirvana, we will travel to and fro in all the ten directions where existence takes place, in order to help sentient beings to write out and copy this sutra, to accept and hold to it as well as to read and recite it, also to help them by explaining its meaning, so they can understand it, as well as to do the practice of this Dharma as it has been taught . . . .”


The sixth important point, on the phrase, “to do the practice of this Dharma as it has been taught”.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the people who do the practice of this Dharma as it had been taught were personages such as Tendai (T’ien Tai), Myōraku (Miao-Lo), and Dengyō (Dengyō Daishi). Now Nichiren and those that follow him reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō). Also they do the practice of this Dharma as it has been taught.


“. . . . as well as being able to memorise it correctly, everything that can be applied to the convincing influence (iriki) of the Buddha. Our only wish is that, even if the World Honoured One is far away, he will watch over us and protect us from a long way off.” Immediately after saying all this, all the bodhisattvas together, all in one voice, expressed their thoughts in the form of a metric hymn.

Our only wish
is that you must not worry,
even after the Buddha’s extinction
into nirvana.
In that terrifying,
iniquitous dimension and time,
we will indeed expound this sutra
far and wide.
There will be dull-witted
and insensitive people,
all of whom, in an ill-mouthed fashion,
will insult and taunt us.


The seventh important point, on the sentence, “There will be dull-witted and insensitive people, all of whom, in an ill-mouthed fashion, will insult and taunt us.”

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the above sentence refers to the sort of people who are incapable of understanding a single word of our teaching. So it is quite apparent that they, in an ill-mouthed fashion, will insult and taunt us. The word “all” in this latter part of this quotation refers to such dull-witted and insensitive people throughout the realms of humankind.


They will go on further
to using blades and sticks,
all of which we must patiently bear.
The monks in that iniquitous age,
with their perverted wisdom,
will have minds
that are twisted and obsequious.

The eighth important point, on the passage that starts with the phrase, “The monks in that iniquitous age . . . .”

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that “the iniquitous age” refers to the final period of the Dharma of Shākyamuni. “The monks” are such people as Kōbō (Kūkai, the founder of the Tantric and Mantric School (Shingon) who was given the posthumous title, “The Universal Teacher Kōbō (Immense Dharma)”, (by the Emperor Daigo in 921 C.E.), who took an aversion to the teaching of the Buddha by distorting it with silly magic (hōbō). Such monks reject the correct profundity of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) and found their distorted wisdom on the preparatory teachings that came prior to it. Now Nichiren and those that follow him reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō), which is the correct wisdom out of all the other wisdoms that are seen as correct.


They will think they have attained
that which they have not yet realised.
They will be full of their own conceit.
Or there will be those monks who dwell
in the forest or in tranquil places (arennya, āranyaka) (a place fit for the correct practice of the Dharma, not too far from towns or villages).


The ninth important point, on the lines of the above metric hymn, “Or there will be monks who dwell in the forest or in tranquil places (arennya, āranyaka).”

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that such monks as these fall in the third category of powerful enemies (who are monks venerated and respected by the common populace, who, through fear of losing their reputation or profit, incite people to persecute the sincere practitioners of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō)), for instance, personages like Ryōkan. (He was revered by the inhabitants of Kamakura. During the severe drought of 1271, Nichiren challenged Ryōkan to bring about a downpour. Since Ryōkan could not achieve this, he stirred up various accusations against Nichiren that finally led to the persecution of Tatsunokuchi and his exile to Sado.)

It is such a person who is looked upon as a monk who had attained the supreme reward of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), as well as the six reaches of the mind of an arhat. (These are 1) the sight of the deva (ten), 2) the hearing of the deva (ten), 3) the ability to penetrate the minds of other people, 4) the ability to manifest oneself according to the propensities of other people as well as being able to mentally travel elsewhere, and 6) to be capable of cutting off all troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha).)


They are those who wear cast-off rags
and who live in deserted places.
They think they are practising
the real path to enlightenment.
At the same time, such individuals
look down upon ordinary people.
All these monks,
in their greed for lucrative offerings,
expound teachings
that are non-Buddhist doctrines,
in order to be given offerings
from lay people,
as though they were arhats (who had attained the six reaches of the mind).
These people with corrupted, twisted minds
continually bear in mind
worldly and irreligious affairs.
Even though they make use of the title
of monks who dwell in the forest
or in tranquil places (arennya, aranyaka),
they take pleasure
in picking out our faults.
Although they may use such words,
they are greedy for lucrative offerings
and expound arguments
contrary to the Buddha teaching.
They even say that
they have created this sutra.


The tenth important point, on the last sentence of the above metric hymn, “They even say that they have created this sutra.”

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that to read this line as if the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) was created has to be a disparaging statement, since it is a sutric text (that is the truth).


In order to defend
the people around them,
in their quest for fame and renown,
they will expound this text
in the minutest detail.
But because we bodhisattvas
are in the midst of the assemblies,
it will become the reason
why these monks wish to destroy us.
Then they will cynically mock us
in a light-hearted and derisive manner,
by saying, “Each one of you is a Buddha.”
Nevertheless, we bodhisattvas
can patiently put up with
all this nastiness,
because we venerate the Buddha.


The eleventh important point, on the sentences, “These monks will cynically mock us in a light-hearted and derisive manner, by saying, 'Each one of you is a Buddha.' Nevertheless, we bodhisattvas can patiently put up with all this nastiness, because we venerate the Buddha.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says, “By contemptuously saying that the practitioners of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) are ridiculously like Buddhas is a vilification, as in the sutric text. Such a light-hearted attitude is derogatory towards the profundity of the Buddha teaching.”

Now Nichiren and those that follow him recite with veneration Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō).


In the filthy kalpa
and iniquitous age,
there will be many people full of fear.
Evil forces will enter their persons
that will vilify
and morally corrupt us.


The twelfth important point, on the lines in the above metric hymn, “Evil forces will enter their persons that will vilify and morally corrupt us.”

The evil forces mentioned above refer to people such as Hōnen (who was the founder of the Immaculate Terrain School (jōdo shū)) and Kōbō (who was the founder of the Tantric and Mantra School (Shingon)). The expression “enter their persons” means that the influence of these two monks was exercised on the sovereign, the principal ministers, and hence the population in general.

The followers of these two monks provoked a hatred for Nichiren and his adherents who reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō).

An evil force is something that snatches away the life of others or wrenches the well-being from other people. The Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) (i.e., the theme and title (daimoku)) is the foundation of the enlightenment and existence of all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. It is also the sutra that includes the merits of all bodhisattvas.


As bodhisattvas in our faith
and veneration for the Buddha,
we must indeed wear the armour
of patient endurance,
in order to expound this sutra.
We will withstand all these hardships,
without having deep feelings
for our bodies and lives.
we only hold to the path of enlightenment
that cannot be surpassed.


The thirteenth important point, on the last lines of the above metric hymn, “We only hold to the path of enlightenment that cannot be surpassed”.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the path of enlightenment that cannot be surpassed is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. Now Nichiren and those that follow him are more concerned with Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō), rather than being heedful for our lives and our innermost existences. This is why we have this phrase to conclude the present chapter, “The Buddha knows what goes on in our minds.”

What goes on in the minds of those who carry out the practices of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is obviously known to the Shākyamuni Lord of the teaching (which is the original Buddhahood that is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, as well as being the fundamental nature of life itself). The Buddha that is referred to in this passage is the workings of life itself and the wisdom to understand it. What goes on in our minds implies Nichiren and those that follow him who reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō.



In ages yet to come,
we will hold to
that which the Buddha
has entrusted us with,
which the World Honoured One himself
must be completely aware of.
In that iniquitous age,
corrupt monks will know nothing
about the fact
that the Buddha
used various expedient means,
in order to expound the Dharma
according to the propensities
of his listeners.
Such monks will denigrate these teachings
with frowns to show their disapproval.
Also, there will be times
again and again
when believers will be ostracised
and banished from stupas and temples,
along with other wrongdoings.
Because we bear in mind
the decree of the Buddha,
we must all be patient
in these circumstances.
If there are any
who seeks the Dharma,
either in the villages
or in the towns,
we will all go
to where these people are
to expound the Dharma
that the Buddha has passed on to us.
We are the emissaries
of the World Honoured One,
and we have no fear
in any of the assemblies
where we must completely
explain the Dharma.
Our wish is that the Buddha’s mind
will be at ease.
In the presence of the Buddha
and all the Buddhas
of the ten directions,
we make this solemn oath
to the Buddha
who already knows our minds.

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