Writings of Nichiren Shōnin Doctrine 2, pp. 35-37, 44, 48-50

Kaimoku-shō or Liberation from Blindness, pp. 14-17, 26-27, 32-33, 35-36

The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin I, pp. 224-226, 231-232, 235-237

The second of the five comparisons is that Mahāyāna Buddhism is superior to Hīnayāna Buddhism. I will say something about the origins of Mahāyāna Buddhism is another chapter, but for now the important thing to know is that beginning in the 1st century BCE a class of sūtras known as Mahāyāna or “Great Vehicle” began to appear that spoke of the bodhisattva vehicle. Those who eschewed the two vehicles of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas as spiritually selfish took up the bodhisattva vehicle instead, aspiring to attain buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. These sūtras extolled this as the superior path. The earlier sūtras only take into account one buddha, the historical Śākyamuni Buddha of this world, and only one bodhisattva, his successor Maitreya Bodhisattva. They only deal with this era wherein the teaching of the Buddha Dharma is still extant. Most importantly, they only teach the way to attain arhatship or pratyekabuddhahood, both of which see liberation as the irrevocable abandonment of the six lower worlds and the beings still transmigrating within them. Mahāyāna sūtras, however, have a grander scope that takes in the whole universe and unimaginably vast scales of time wherein there are countless buddhas inhabiting pure lands throughout the universe (the ten directions) with bodhisattva attendants who voluntarily take birth even in this Sahā world (the world of Endurance) in order to help liberate all beings and accumulate the merit and insight they would need to attain buddhahood and establish their own pure lands. According to the Mahāyāna sūtras, it is indeed possible to accomplish the greatest and most selfless goal of buddhahood itself. In Kaimoku-shō, Nichiren offered the following comparison between the Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna sūtras that highlights these differences:

The Great Assembly Sūtra, the Larger Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra, the Golden Splendor Sūtra, and the Pure Land Sūtra were expounded for the purpose of criticizing adherents of the two vehicles who relied on the Hīnayāna sūtras. In these Mahāyāna sūtras, the Pure Lands of the Buddhas were established in the worlds of the ten directions in order to encourage ordinary men and bodhisattvas to be born there. This troubled adherents of the two vehicles. There are some differences between the Hīnayāna sūtras and the Mahāyāna sūtras. In the Mahāyāna sūtras, it says that the buddhas appear in the world of the ten directions; that great bodhisattvas are dispatched from the worlds of the ten directions; that these particular sūtras are expounded in the worlds of the ten directions; that the Buddhas assembled from the worlds of the ten directions; that Śākyamuni, the World Honored One, stretched his tongue over the one thousand million Sumeru worlds; or that the Buddhas stretched their tongues. All these statements are given, I believe, for the purpose of criticizing the teaching of the Hīnayāna sūtras that there is only one Buddha in the worlds of the ten directions. (adapted from Murano 2000, pp. 26-27)

Furthermore, whereas the Hīnayāna sūtras and schools do not recognize that sentient beings universally possess the nature of buddhahood, the Flower Garland Sūtra states that right after his awakening the Buddha saw that all beings are capable of being buddhas also but do not realize it.

Then the Buddha, with the unimpeded, pure, clear eye of knowledge, observes all sentient beings in the cosmos and says, “How strange – how is it that these sentient beings have the knowledge of the Buddha but in their folly and confusion do not know it or perceive it? I should teach them the way of sages and cause them forever to shed deluded notions and attachments, so they can see in their own bodies the vast knowledge of buddhas, no different than the buddhas.” (Cleary 1993, p. 1003)

In the Nirvāna Sūtra, just before his passing the Buddha teaches that the essential nature of the Buddha is unborn and deathless and that all beings are endowed with this same buddha-nature. “This is to say that the Tathagata is eternal and unchanging, that he is utmost peace itself, and that all beings have the Buddha Nature.” (Yamamoto, Kosho, p. 143)

Though the buddha-nature of all sentient beings is asserted, the Buddha stated in the passage from the Flower Garland Sūtra that sentient beings are ignorant of this and would need to be taught. In the Nirvāna Sūtra, Kāśyapa Bodhisattva points out: “There surely is the Buddha Nature. But having not yet practiced the best expediency of the Way, he has not yet seen it. Having not seen it, there can be no attainment of the unsurpassed bodhi.” (Ibid, p. 169) Having buddha-nature, then, is one thing, but actually arousing the aspiration to attain buddhahood and making efforts to realize and actualize buddha-nature is something else again. This aspiration and determination to dedicate all their efforts to attaining buddhahood for the sake of all beings is what differentiates a bodhisattva from the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas of the two vehicles. The following contrast is made in the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines Sūtra:

For a bodhisattva should not train in the same way in which persons belonging to the vehicle of the śrāvakas or pratyekabuddhas are trained. How then are śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas trained? They make up their minds that “one single self we shall tame, one single self we shall pacify, one single self we shall lead to nirvāna.” Thus they undertake exercises that are intended to bring about wholesome roots for the sake of taming themselves, pacifying themselves, leading themselves to nirvāna. A bodhisattva should certainly not in such a way train himself. On the contrary, he should train himself thus: “My own self will I place in suchness, and, so that all the world might be helped, I will place all beings into suchness, and I will lead to nirvāna the whole immeasurable world of beings.” With that intention should a bodhisattva undertake all the exercises that bring about all the wholesome roots. But he should not boast about them. (adapted from Conze 1995, p. 163)

The same sūtra also contains the following dialogue between the Buddha and his disciple Subhūti about the bodhisattvas that describes their meeting with good spiritual friends, their initial resolution, their practice of the six perfections, and their dedication of their efforts to attaining perfect and complete awakening in order to save all sentient beings:

Subhūti: How should a bodhisattva who is only just beginning stand in perfect wisdom, how train himself?

The Buddha: Such a bodhisattva should tend, love, and honor the good friends. His good friends are those who will instruct and admonish him in perfect wisdom, and who will expound to him its meaning. They will expound it as follows: “Come here, son of good family, make endeavors in the six perfections. Whatever you may have achieved by way of generous giving, guarding morality, perfecting yourself in patience, exertion of energy, entering into meditative absorptions, or mastery in wisdom – all that dedicate to perfect and complete awakening. But do not misconstrue perfect and complete awakening as form, or any other aggregate. For intangible is all-knowledge. And do not long for the level of a śrāvaka or a pratyekabuddha. It is thus that a bodhisattva who is just beginning should gradually, through the good friends, enter into perfect wisdom.”

Subhūti: Doers of what is hard are the bodhisattvas who have set out to win perfect and complete awakening. Thanks to the practice of the six perfections, as described above, they do not wish to attain release in a private nirvāna of their own. They survey the highly painful world of beings. They wait to win perfect and complete awakening, and yet they do not tremble at birth and death.

The Buddha: So it is. Doers of what is hard are the bodhisattvas who have set out for the benefit and happiness of the world, out of pity for it. “We will become a shelter for the world, a refuge, the place of rest, the final relief, islands, lights, and leaders of the world. We will win perfect and complete awakening, and become the resort of the world,” with these words they make a vigorous effort to win such a perfect and complete awakening. (adapted from ibid, p. 188)

The bodhisattva’s career begins with the arising of the “thought of awakening” (S. bodhicitta), the initial aspiration to attain perfect and complete awakening and save all sentient beings. The bodhisattva’s determination is currently expressed in East Asian Buddhism by the four great vows from the Bodhisattva Practice Jeweled Necklace Sūtra (probably composed in China in the late 5th century) that were popularized by Chih-i (538-597), the founder of the T’ien-t’ai school. The four great vows are the general vows that all bodhisattva’s take, though some bodhisattvas in the sūtras are credited with more specific vows. These four great vows are as follows:

Sentient beings are innumerable:

I vow to save them all.

Our defilements are inexhaustible:

I vow to quench them all.

The Buddha’s teachings are immeasurable:

I vow to know them all.

The Way of the Buddha is unexcelled:

I vow to attain the Path Sublime.

In order to fulfill these vows the bodhisattvas must transcend the insight and spiritual maturity of the two vehicles: “And if a bodhisattva is unable even to realize the level of a śrāvaka or pratyekabuddha, how much less can he know perfect and complete awakening!” (adapted from Conze 1984, p. 105) Though the bodhisattvas’ training encompasses that of the two vehicles, the bodhisattvas must beware of grasping at the concepts the two vehicles use to analyze reality (like the four noble truths, the five aggregates, or the twelve links of the chain of dependent origination) as though they were actual things, nor should they fall into the individualized nirvāna of the two vehicles. Instead they must develop skillful means (S. upāya) and the six perfections (S. pāramitā) in order to attain buddhahood for the sake of all beings. Skillful means is essentially the same things as the perfection of wisdom. “But what is this skillful means of a bodhisattva? It is just this perfection of wisdom.” (adapted from Conze 1995, p. 250) The perfection of wisdom is the insight that all phenomena (called dharmas in Buddhism) are empty of an unchanging independent selfhood or essence and therefore there is ultimately nothing to grasp and nothing to reject. “The non-appropriation and the non-abandonment of all dharmas, that is perfect wisdom.” (Conze 1984, p. 102) This insight is the origin, guide, and culmination of the other five perfections: generosity, morality, patience, energy, and meditation. Under the direction of the perfection of wisdom the development and application of the other five perfections become skillful means for the sake of all beings rather than for the sake of gaining worldly benefit or the attainment of the Hīnayāna nirvāna that abandons the six worlds.

Buddha: [The bodhisattva] courses in all the six perfections. But it is the perfection of wisdom that controls the bodhisattva when he gives generously, or guards morality, or perfects himself in patience, or exerts himself energetically, or enters meditative absorption, or has insight into phenomena. One cannot get at a distinction or difference between the six perfections – all of them are upheld by skillful means, dedicated to the perfection of wisdom, dedicated to all-knowledge. (adapted from Conze 1995, p. 119)

To understand the six perfections and especially the perfection of wisdom is to understand the bodhisattva-vehicle and the foundations of the Mahāyāna. The following passage provides a brief review of them:

Here, Śāriputra, a bodhisattva, a great being, having stood in the perfection of wisdom, by way of not taking his stand on it, should perfect the perfection of generosity, by way of seeing that no renunciation has taken place, since gift, giver, and recipient have not been apprehended. He should perfect himself in the perfection of morality, through not transgressing into either offence or non-offence. He should perfect the perfection of patience and remain imperturbable. He should perfect the perfection of energy, and remain indefatigable in his physical and mental energy. He should perfect the perfection of meditation, and derive no enjoyment (from the absorptions). He should perfect the perfection of wisdom, on account of the fact that he apprehends neither wisdom nor foolishness. (adapted from Conze 1984, p. 45)

As the Mahāyāna tradition developed, the specific meaning of each of the six perfections was also developed. The Revealing the Profound and Secret Sūtra states that there are three kinds of each of the six perfections. Other passages from the Perfection of Wisdom Sūtras provide more detailed descriptions. Let’s take each of the six in turn and see what the sūtras had to say about each one, starting with the perfection of generosity.

The three kinds of giving are giving of teaching, giving of goods, and giving of fearlessness. (Cleary 1995, p. 78)

The supramundane perfection of giving, on the other hand, consists in the threefold purity. What is the threefold purity? Here a bodhisattva gives a gift, and he does not apprehend a self, a recipient, or a gift; also no reward of giving. He surrenders that gift to all beings, but does not apprehend those beings, or himself either. And, though he dedicates that gift to supreme awakening, he does not apprehend any awakening. (adapted from Conze 1984, p. 199)

The perfection of generosity, therefore, consists in the teaching of the Dharma, the giving of material goods (including even one’s own body and life), and even the giving of fearlessness. All of this, however, is done without any thought of clinging, or self-congratulation, or expectation of return. It is done with the insight that there is ultimately no giver, no gift, and no receiver.

The three kinds of discipline are the discipline of increasingly giving up what is not good, the discipline of increasingly developing what is good, and the discipline of increasingly benefiting sentient beings. (Cleary 1995, p. 78)

Moreover the irreversible bodhisattva undertakes to observe the ten wholesome ways of action. He himself abstains from taking life, and also others he establishes in the abstention from taking life; he praises the abstention from taking life, and also those others who abstain from taking life; one acquiescent. And so for the abstention from: taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, intoxicants as tending to cloud the mind, lying speech, malicious speech, indistinct prattling, covetousness, ill will and wrong views. Endowed with these attributes, etc. Moreover the irreversible bodhisattva even in his dreams commits no offence against the ten wholesome ways of acting, how much less when he is awake. (adapted from Conze 1984, p. 389)

The perfection of morality is stated in terms of what came to be known as the three pure precepts to be followed by bodhisattvas (to give up what is evil, to do what is good, and to benefit all beings) and the ten courses of wholesome conduct that carried over into Buddhism from Brahmanism (though in this case abstention from intoxicants replaces abstention from abusive speech). Again, all of this is done without any attachment or aversion.

The three kinds of forbearance are the forbearance of bearing injury, the forbearance of serenity in suffering, and the forbearance of truthful observation of realities. (Cleary 1995, pp. 78-79)

And when confronted with those who struggle to kill him, the bodhisattva renounces himself with supreme patience for the sake of those very beings and does them no harm. (Conze 1984, p. 622)

No one can attain any of the fruits of the holy life, or keep it – from the streamwinner’s fruit to perfect and complete awakening – unless he patiently accepts this elusiveness of the Dharma. (adapted from Conze 1995, p. 98)

The perfection of patience is of course about being patient when suffering setbacks in life, physical or emotional harm, or even malice from other beings. They overcome anger and ill will through their compassion and the insight that in the interplay of causes and conditions there is nothing ultimately personal about any of the injuries suffered. Again, this perfection is perfected as the bodhisattva overcomes attachment and aversion and the idea that there are ultimately real beings and objects to grasp or reject. The bodhisattva must also be patient with the Dharma itself. The teaching that all things are empty of any self-nature or essence can be quite disconcerting, and its subtleties are hard to understand. The bodhisattva must patiently continue to contemplate the perfection of wisdom until they see that in fact no unchanging independent essence can be found amidst causes and conditions and that the unobstructed true nature of reality is the groundless ground (so to speak) of the liberated selfless compassion of buddhahood.

The three kinds of diligence are diligence as armor, diligence of concerted effort to increasingly develop good qualities, and diligence of concentrated effort to help sentient beings. (Cleary 1995, p. 79)

A bodhisattva is not armed with the great armor if he delimits a certain number of beings, and thinks, “so many beings will I lead to nirvāna, so many beings will I not lead to nirvāna; so many beings will I introduce to awakening, so many beings will I not lead to awakening!” But on the contrary, it is for the sake of all beings that he is armed with the great armor and he thinks, “I myself will fulfill the six perfections and also on all beings will I enjoin them.” (adapted from Conze 1984, p. 138)

The perfection of energy is the bodhisattva’s tireless efforts to work for the liberation of all beings. It is like armor, because with it the bodhisattva is protected from any obstacles and will not fall prey to the lesser goals of the two vehicles. Like right effort of the eightfold path, the perfection of energy is about preventing the arising of unwholesome states, abandoning those that have arisen, generating positive states, and maintaining positive states that have arisen. Unlike right effort, the perfection of generosity is specifically dedicated to the benefit and liberation of all beings and again the bodhisattva does not hold the idea that either the unwholesome or the wholesome qualities have any essential nature to accept or reject. In this way the bodhisattva is without any undue anxiety over negative states or conceit over positive ones, they simply work unselfconsciously to assist all beings on the path to awakening.

 The three kinds of meditation are meditation in a state of bliss without discriminating thought, still and silent, extremely tranquil and impeccable, thus curing the pains of afflictions; meditation that brings forth virtuous qualities and powers; and meditation that brings forth benefit for sentient beings. (Cleary 1995, p. 79)

If, although he enters into those meditative absorptions, the infinite states of mind, and formless attainments, he does not gain his rebirths through them, does not relish them, is not captivated by them – then this is the perfection of meditation of a bodhisattva who courses in the unlimited.” (adapted from Conze 1984, p. 134)

The perfection of meditation (S. dhyāna) is a development of right concentration (S. samādhi) of the eightfold path. Meditation in a state of bliss without discriminating thought refers to the second through fourth of the four dhyānas (states of increasingly refined meditative absorption) wherein discursive thought has been transcended. One way of entering into the dhyānas would be through contemplating the four infinite virtues of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity and extending those feelings in one’s regard to all beings in all directions. From the fourth dhyāna one might also cultivate the four attainments that are increasingly subtle formless objects of contemplation: space, consciousness, nothingness, and neither perception nor non-perception. It is taught in Buddhism that entering any of these states creates the karma to be reborn into a corresponding heaven. The bodhisattva, however, does not practice meditation for the purpose of attaining a heavenly rebirth or to selfishly abide in such pleasant states. Instead, meditation is used to overcome the hindrances of sensual desire, ill will, drowsiness, agitation, and debilitating doubt. Meditation is also the optimum way of developing the aforementioned four infinite virtues and other wholesome qualities with which to help sentient beings. Finally, meditation provides the calmness and clarity of mind that allows for the insight into the true nature of reality. All of this is cultivated for the sake of all beings, but again without holding onto any of these states as an object of attachment or aversion.

The three kinds of insight are insight focused on conventional worldly truth, insight focused on ultimate truth, and insight focused on benefiting sentient beings. (Cleary 1995, p. 79)

Furthermore, a bodhisattva who courses in the perfection of wisdom gives a gift which is threefold pure; with his attention centered on the knowledge of all modes, he dedicates to perfect and complete awakening that gift which he gives, after he has made that wholesome root common to all beings. This is the perfection of giving of a bodhisattva who courses in the perfection of wisdom. Similarly should one understand the perfection of morality, patience, energy, and meditation of a bodhisattva who courses in perfect wisdom. With regard to all perfections, and to all dharmas, he sets up the notion that they are an illusion, a dream, a reflected image, an echo, a reflection, a magical creation; with his attention centered on all-knowledge, he dedicates to perfect and complete awakening that wholesome root, after he has made it common to all beings. It is thus that a bodhisattva who courses in perfect wisdom, fulfills the perfection of wisdom. A bodhisattva is then called “armed with the great armor.” It is thus that a bodhisattva, having stood firm in each single perfection, fulfills all the perfections. (adapted from Conze 1984, pp. 130-131)

The perfection of wisdom is the ability to deal with the conventional truth of the ordinary common sense way of relating to the world as a multiplicity of persons, places, and things and at the same time be awakened to the ultimate truth that all things, all dharmas, are empty. This does not mean that things do not exist at all. That is not what “emptiness” means. Emptiness is another way of talking about how things that are caused and conditioned do not have an unchanging, independent self-nature. It is a deeper way of contemplating dependent origination that points to the flowing, composite, conceptual nature of the things that we experience. Things are empty because they are impermanent. So there is nothing to be permanently grasped. Things are empty because they are composite. So apart from the components (causes and conditions that are all in turn caused and conditioned ad infinitum) there is nothing to grasp. Things are empty because they are not what they seem to be as a result of our mind projecting categories and concepts onto the dynamic interdependent flow of causes and conditions. Apart from our minds concepts there is no singular thing to be grasped in the flow of causes and conditions. Emptiness is not meant to be a theory or belief that we should just subscribe to conceptually. It is meant to be something to observe directly by deeply contemplating the flowing, composite, and conceptual nature of phenomena. Emptiness is not so much a characteristic as a way of pointing out that things are not the solid permanent independent facts they seem to be. Nevertheless they are contingent realities. By realizing that all things are empty, bodhisattvas overcome undue attachment towards them and also overcome any undue aversion towards them. Free of attachment and aversion, bodhisattvas deal with phenomena in a more graceful, fearless, and wholesome way. They can care about and deal with conditioned phenomena without falling into the trap of craving certain conditions and fearing others. This includes craving or fearing anything within the six lower worlds, or even the peace attained in the higher worlds of the two vehicles. This is why the perfection of wisdom is synonymous with skillful means and is the spirit that unites and guides the other five perfections.

According to the Lotus Sūtra, the Buddha specifically taught the six perfections for the bodhisattvas. “To bodhisattvas, he expounded the teaching of the six perfections, a teaching suitable for them, and caused them to attain perfect and complete awakening, that is, to obtain the knowledge of the equality and difference of all things.” (Murano 1991, p. 14) It is the six perfections that differentiate the bodhisattva vehicle from the other two vehicles. The knowledge of the equality and difference of all things refers to the ability of the perfection of wisdom to deal both with the ultimate truth of the universal quality of emptiness and also the conventional truth that recognizes the different characteristics of conditioned phenomena in their transience and interrelationships.

By introducing the bodhisattva vehicle with its six perfections, expounding the teaching of the emptiness of all dharmas, and providing the assurance that all beings have the buddha-nature the Mahāyāna sūtras advanced beyond the limited aspirations and world view of the Hīnayāna teachings. According to Nichiren and his T’ien-t’ai predecessors, however, the Mahāyāna sūtras other than the Lotus Sūtra are only a provisional form of Mahāyāna with two important shortcomings.

The Flower Garland Sūtra, Large Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra, and the Mahāvairocana Sūtra conceal not only the possibility of attaining buddhahood by adherents of the two vehicles but also Śākyamuni Buddha’s attainment of buddhahood in the remotest past. These sūtras have two faults. First, they still preserve the differences between the three vehicles; therefore, their teachings are merely expedient. They do not reveal the teaching of the three thousand worlds in one thought-moment expounded in the first fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sūtra. Second they hold that Śākyamuni Buddha attained Buddhahood during his life in this world. (adapted from Murano 2000, p. 32)

Chih-i’s teaching of the three thousand worlds in a single thought-moment has already been discussed. How this teaching underlies the teaching of the One Vehicle of the Trace Gate and the attainment of buddhahood in the remotest past in the Original Gate will be discussed in a later chapter. For now, let’s look at why Nichiren believed that the provisional Mahāyāna teachings were lacking in comparison with the teaching of the three thousand worlds in a single thought-moment.

In 13th century Japan there were seven schools of Buddhism that were considered Mahāyāna: Hossō Shū (Dharma Characteristics School), Sanron Shū (Three Treatises School), Kegon Shū (Flower Garland School), Shingon Shū (True Word School), Zen Shū (Meditation School), Jōdo Shū (Pure Land School), and Tendai Shū (the Japanese form of the T’ien-t’ai School). All of them based their teachings and practices upon the Mahāyāna sūtras or at least Mahāyāna commentaries in some manner (including Zen, rhetoric about a transmission beyond words notwithstanding). In upcoming chapters I will have more to say about the specific origins and teachings of these schools. Of these seven Mahāyāna schools, Nichiren considered six of them to be based upon sūtras that did not guarantee the attainment of buddhahood for all beings, particularly the adherents of the two vehicles. The T’ien-t’ai school was one exception in that they were ostensibly based upon the Lotus Sūtra, though Nichiren would accuse them of actually following Shingon teachings.

One would think that all Mahāyāna schools would recognize the ability of all people to attain buddhahood since they were based upon the Mahāyāna sūtras wherein the Buddha asserted at the beginning and the end of his teaching that all beings have the buddha-nature and are therefore capable of attaining buddhahood. In fact, the Mahāyāna sūtras did not always guarantee universal buddhahood for all beings. In particular, the arhats and pratyekabuddhas who attained the Hīnayāna nirvāna were believed to be incapable of taking up the bodhisattva vehicle and attaining buddhahood, particularly since upon passing away they would never again be reborn in the six worlds or anywhere else. This is why Nichiren writes that, “The Hossō and Sanron schools established eight worlds, but not ten. Needless to say, they did not know that the ten worlds interpenetrate one another.” (Adapted from ibid, p. 14) In other words, because the Dharma Characteristics and Three Treatises schools taught that the arhats and pratyekabuddhas have no worlds of their own they simply become extinct upon their deaths and therefore these two schools only acknowledge eight of the ten worlds. The Dharma Characteristics School also taught, based upon its own sūtras and commentaries, that people have one of five distinct natures: some people are incorrigible disbelievers (S. icchantika) who are incapable of ever leaving the six lower worlds, some are capable of taking up the śrāvaka vehicle, some are capable of taking up the pratyekabuddha vehicle, some are capable taking up the buddha vehicle, and some are able to take up any one of the three vehicles. In this scheme there are some who will never escape samsāra and very few who can or will attain buddhahood. Even though these people may have buddha-nature as the true nature of their lives, they do not have the wisdom or virtue to ever realize it. In the following passage from “A Letter to Lord Daigaku Saburō” (Daigaku Saburō-dono Gosho), Nichiren reiterates his estimation of the limitations of the Hīnayāna schools and the Dharma Characteristics and Three Treatises schools:

The three sects of Kusha, Jōjitsu, and Ritsu are based on Hīnayāna sūtras and explain only the lower six realms. Among Mahāyāna teachings, the San-lun school was brought to China from India before the T’ien-t’ai school. This sect discusses eight realms, not ten realms, [excluding the realms of śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha]. The Hossō school was originally founded in India as the Yogacara. It was brought over to China after the T’ien-t’ai school, during the reign of Emperor T’ai-tsung of T’ang. This school, too, expounds only eight of the ten realms. Though a Mahāyāna school, the Hossō school holds the doctrine of the “five mutually distinctive natures,” insisting that those without the nature of awakening will never become Buddhas. This seems to be similar to non-Buddhist teachings, and is a common concern among Buddhist schools. (Adapted from Hori 2004, pp. 210 – 211)

The belief that the arhats and pratyekabuddhas disappear forever after their deaths and that some people are forever incapable of ever attaining buddhahood means that there are only eight worlds and that for some beings the world of buddhahood is inaccessible to them. This view falls far short of the mutual possession of the ten worlds wherein the world of buddhahood embraces and is embraced by the other nine worlds, meaning that all beings, no matter their present state of being, are capable of buddhahood and that the buddhas never abandon the beings of the nine worlds.

As for the other Mahāyāna schools, Nichiren does not discuss Zen or Pure Land until much later in the Kaimoku-shō, though they are also based upon provisional sūtras in Nichiren’s view. Nichiren does, however, accuse the Flower Garland and True Word schools of stealing the teaching of the three thousand worlds in a single thought moment and making it a part of their own teachings.

The Flower Garland and True Word schools are essentially provisional Mahāyāna schools based on the sūtras of provisional Mahāyāna Buddhism… took the teaching of the three thousand worlds in a single thought-moment from the T’ien-t’ai school and made it the core of their school. (Adapted from Murano 2000, p. 16)

According to the argument Nichiren makes, neither the Flower Garland Sūtra that is the basis of the Flower Garland school, nor the Mahavairochana Sūtra and other esoteric sūtras that are the basis of the True Word school guarantee the attainment of buddhahood by the followers of the two vehicles. This would leave these schools in the same position doctrinally as the Dharma Characteristics and Three Treatises schools insofar as being unable to assert that all beings are capable of attaining buddhahood. In order to remedy the shortcoming of their teachings, the Flower Garland and True Word schools both misappropriated the doctrine of the three thousand worlds in a single thought-moment that was based upon his interpretation of the Lotus Sūtra in order to be able to compete successfully with the T’ien-t’ai school.


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