Writing of Nichiren Shōnin Doctrine 2: pp. 109-114

Kaimoku-shō or Liberation From Blindness: pp. 120-125

Writings of Nichiren Daishonin I: 283-287


Subduing as a method of teaching the Dharma

Nichiren also cites passages from the T’ien-t’ai grand masters that show that their understanding of teaching by breaking and subduing was based upon passages in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāna Sūtra (hereafter to be referred to simply as the Nirvāna Sūtra) that speak of kings defending Buddhist monks from corrupt monks and brahmin persecutors, and also the story of a doctor who had milk based medicines outlawed because they had been overprescribed by false doctor. They also cited the promises of spirit named Hārītī (J. Kishimojin) and her ten daughters to protect the practitioners of the Lotus Sūtra by splitting the heads of those who trouble them. Nichiren also refers to the story of Never-Despising Bodhisattva from chapter 20 of the Lotus Sūtra as an example of the method of subduing.

In chapter five of the Nirvāna Sūtra a bodhisattva named Kāśyapa asks the Buddha how he obtained the adamantine and indestructible Dharma-body. The Buddha answers that those who uphold the True Dharma can obtain it. By upholding the True Dharma he means that the secular authorities should protect the true monks. “One who upholds the True Dharma does not receive the five precepts and practice deportment but protects with the sword, bow, arrow, and halberd those monks who uphold the precepts and who are pure.” (Yamamoto, p. 77 adapted)

In response to the Buddha’s statement that the upholders of the True Dharma should protect the pure monks Kāśyapa Bodhisattva points out that those monks “whose eyes turn to protection” (Ibid, p. 77-78) are usually considered false monks, just as in chapter 14 of the Lotus Sūtra the monks are told to not approach kings and other authorities to gain influence. The Buddha replies by contrasting the precept abiding monk who basically minds his own business with the true monk who expounds the Mahāyāna sūtras and remonstrates with those monks who are breaking the precepts and in doing so incurs the wrath of the corrupt monks who may even violently attack the true monks.

There may be a monk who goes where he will, is content, recites sūtras, sits, and meditates. Should any person come and about the Way, he will expound it. He will speak about giving, observing the precepts, virtuous acts, and say that one should covet little and be content. But he is not able to raise a lion’s roar over the doctrine, is not surrounded by lion’s, and is not able to subdue those who do evil. Such a monk cannot work out his own benefit, nor is he able to assist others. Know that this person is indolent and lazy. Though he may well uphold the precepts and stick to pure actions, such a one, you should know, can do nothing.  Or there may be monks whose has all requisites, who upholds the prohibitive precepts, always raises a lion’s roar, and delivers wonderful discourses on the sūtras, geyavyākaranagāthaudānaitivrittakajātakavaipulya, and abhutadharma. He thus expounds all nine types of Buddhist sūtras. He gives benefit and peace to others. So he says, “Prohibitions are given in this Nirvāna Sūtra to monks saying that they should not keep menials, cows, sheep, or anything that goes against prohibitions. Should monks keep such defiled things, they must be taught not to. The Tathāgata has stated in the sūtras of various schools that any monk who keeps such things must be admonished just as kings correct ill acts and that they must be driven back to secular life.” When a monk raises such a lion’s roar, any who break the precepts, hearing this, will all be angered and harm that monk. If this person dies because of this, he is to be called one who upholds the precepts and who brings benefit to himself and others. Because of this, kings, ministers, prime ministers, and laymen protect those who deliver discourses. Any person who protects the True Dharma should learn things thus. (Ibid, pp. 77-78 adapted)

A true monk is one who not only strictly upholds the precepts but who also preaches the True Dharma, even in the face of persecution. Even in pre-Mahāyāna discourses, the Buddha made it clear that he intended for his monks (and even nuns and lay followers) to teach and even to refute false teachings. In the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta the Buddha tells Mara the following:

“Evil One, I will not take final nirvāna till I have monks and disciples who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the Dharma, trained in conformity with the Dharma, correctly trained and walking in the path of the Dharma, who will pass on what they have gained from their Teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyze it, make it clear; till they shall be able by means of the Dharma to refute false teachings that have arisen, and teach the Dharma of wondrous effect.” (Long Discourses of the Buddha, p. 247 adapted)

Nichiren also cites the following passage from the Nirvāna Sūtra that likewise emphasizes the duty of true monks to remonstrate with those who are violating the Dharma. The passage reads:

If a good monk, seeing one who violates the Dharma, does not drive away, reproach, or impeach such a one, know that this monk is the enemy of the Buddha Dharma. If he drives away, reproaches, or impeaches such a one, he is my disciple, a true disciple.” (Ibid, p. 67, adapted)

We might recognize in this a Mahāyāna reiteration of the Buddha’s statements in the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta. Nichiren cites a commentary on this passage by Chih-i’s disciple Kuan-ting (561-632) that makes the point that a true friend will try to prevent a friend from committing evil and so it is more truly compassionate to correct them and in fact lacking in compassionate to remain silent. There are several examples in the Pāli Canon of the Buddha remonstrating with monks who were found to be misrepresenting the Buddha Dharma to the detriment of themselves and others. He recognized that there may be times when one has to “be cruel to be kind” as we sometimes put it. There are times when one must speak the truth plainly to those who may not want to hear it. One occasion was when the Buddha denounced Devadatta in no uncertain terms, refusing to give him the leadership of the Sangha and making it clear that he did not consider him qualified to ever do so, even if the Buddha were to consider appointing a successor. The Buddha went so far as to say to Devadatta, “I would not hand over the Sangha of monks even to Shariputra and Maudgalyayana. How should I do so to such a wastrel, a clot of spittle, as you?” (Nanamoli, p. 258 adapted) Even if one takes the position that this incident is a story that arose after the death of the Buddha in order to vilify the schismatic Devadatta and his followers, it still seems to be so far out of character that one wonders how anyone could have attributed such words to the Buddha. And yet, there is a discourse in which the Buddha’s rivals used this and later condemnations of Devadatta against him. Prince Abhaya, one of the sons of King Bimbisāra though not an heir, was a follower of Nirgrantha Jnatiputra, the founder of the Jains. According to the Abhayarajakumara Sutta, Nirgrantha Jñātiputra made the following request to Prince Abhaya:

“Come Prince, go to the recluse Gautama and say: ‘Venerable sir, would the Tathāgata utter speech that would be unwelcome and disagreeable to others?’ If the recluse Gautama, on being asked thus, answers: ‘The Tathāgata, prince, would utter speech that would be unwelcome and disagreeable to others,’ then say to him: ‘Then, venerable sir, what is the difference between you and an ordinary person? For an ordinary person would utter speech that would be unwelcome and disagreeable to others.’ But if the recluse Gautama, on being asked thus, answers: ‘The Tathāgata, prince, would not utter speech that would be unwelcome and disagreeable to others,’ then say to him: ‘Then, venerable sir, why have you declared of Devadatta: “Devadatta is destined for the states of deprivation, Devadatta is destined for hell, Devadatta will remain [in hell] for the eon, Devadatta is incorrigible”? Devadatta was angry and dissatisfied with that speech of yours.’ When the recluse Gautama is posed this two-horned question by you, he will not be able either to gulp it down or to throw it up. If an iron spike were stuck in a man’s throat, he would not be able either to gulp it down or to throw it up; so too prince, when the recluse Gautama is posed this two-horned question by you, he will not be able to gulp it down or to throw it up.” (Nanamoli & Bodhi, pp. 498-499)

It is evident that Nirgrantha Jñātiputra is not being portrayed here as a dispassionate observer. Nor is his inquiry sincere. In order to attack and belittle the Buddha, he spitefully looked for a weak point to exploit. Again, this is perhaps not an accurate portrayal of the founder of the Jains, but it may be a historical fiction based on the kind of rancorous debates that may have taken place between Buddhists and Jains after the passing of their founders. In any case, the Buddha easily overcomes both horns of the dilemma and in the course of doing so also provides an explanation for why he spoke so harshly in regard to Devadatta. Prince Abhaya visits the Buddha and asks:

“Venerable sir, would a Tathāgata utter such speech as would be unwelcome and disagreeable to others?”


“There is no one-sided answer to that, prince.”


“Then, venerable sir, the Nirgranthas have lost in this.”


“Why do you say this, prince: ‘Then, venerable sir, the Nirgranthas have lost in this’?”


Prince Abhaya then reported to the Blessed One his entire conversation with Nirgrantha Jñātiputra.


Now on that occasion a young tender infant was lying prone on Prince Abhaya’s lap. Then the Blessed One said to Prince Abhaya: “What do you think, prince? If, while you or your nurse were not attending to him, this child were to put a stick or pebble in his mouth, what would you do to him?”


“Venerable sir, I would take it out. If I could not take it out at once, I would take his head in my left hand, and crooking a finger of my right hand, I would take it out even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have compassion for the child.”


“So too, prince, such speech as the Tathāgata knows to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, and which is also unwelcome and disagreeable to others: such speech the Tathāgata does not utter. Such speech as the Tathāgata knows to be true and correct but unbeneficial, and which is also unwelcome and disagreeable to others: such speech the Tathāgata does not utter. Such speech as the Tathāgata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial, but which is unwelcome and disagreeable to others: the Tathāgata knows the time to use such speech. Such speech as the Tathāgata knows to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, but which is welcome and agreeable to others: such speech the Tathagata does not utter. Such speech as the Tathāgata knows to be true and correct but unbeneficial, and which is welcome and agreeable to others: such speech the Tathāgata does not utter. Such speech as the Tathāgata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial, and which is welcome and agreeable to others: the Tathāgata knows the time to use such speech. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has compassion for beings.” (Ibid, pp. 499-500)

In other words, the Buddha only speaks what is true, correct, and beneficial; and whether or not it is welcome and agreeable or unwelcome and disagreeable he will only speak such things in the right time and place motivated solely by compassion. In the case of Devadatta, he was certain based upon his knowledge of Devadatta’s character and activities and the law of cause and effect that Devadatta was heading for a fall. In some versions or translations of this event, the Buddha actually calls Devadatta a “lick-spittle” with the implication that Devadatta’s reliance on the very generous patronage of Prince Ajātaśatru is comparable to licking the spit of others. In other words, his reliance on Prince Ajātaśatru seems good, but is actually a degrading dependence that is leading him further and further away from the true good of liberation. All of this can be taken to rationalize the use of name-calling in a debate or disagreement, but I think the actual principles are quite clear. We should speak in a truthful and beneficial way, and whenever possible in a kind way; but also in a timely and appropriate way, especially if what needs to be said will be unpleasant for others to hear.

Getting back to the Nirvāna Sūtra, the Buddha tells Kāśyapa Bodhisattva the story of King Virtuous, who was a past life of the bodhisattva who would become Śākyamuni Buddha. King Virtuous fought to his death against false monks who broke the precepts and were trying to kill the virtuous monk named Awakened to Virtue.

The reward of protecting the True Dharma is extremely great and innumerable. O good man! Because of this, those laymen who protect the Dharma should take the sword and staff and protect such a monk who guards the Dharma. Even if one upholds the precepts, we cannot call this person one who upholds the Mahāyāna. Even if one has not received the five precepts, if one protects the True Dharma, such a one can well be called one of the Mahāyāna. One who upholds the True Dharma should take the sword and staff and guard monks. … O good man! After I have entered nirvana, the world will be evil-ridden and the land devastated, each pillaging the other, and the people will be driven by hunger. At such a time, because of hunger, men may make up their minds to abandon home and enter the Sangha. Such persons are false monks. Such, seeing those persons who strictly observe the precepts, correct in deportment, and pure in action, upholding the True Dharma, will drive such away or cause them harm. … O good man! That is why I permit those who uphold the precepts to be accompanied by white clad laypeople with swords and staves. Although all kings, ministers, rich householders, and laymen may possess the sword and staff for protecting the Dharma, I call this the upholding of the precepts. You may possess the sword and staff, but do not take life. If things go thus, we call it the first-hand upholding of the precepts.” (Ibid, pp. 80-81 adapted)

The story shows that the protection and transmission of the True Dharma is the responsibility of the rulers and not just of the monastic Sangha because it is secular authorities who are charged with maintaining law and order and to protect the lives of the innocent through the use of, or at least threat of, deadly force if necessary. Intriguingly, the Nirvāna Sūtra states that the armed laypeople should not use their weapons to kill. In the story of King Virtuous it does not say that he actually killed any of the false monks attacking the monk Awakened to Virtue though he did apparently succeed in routing them. So even though the secular authorities are to take up weapons, they should refrain from actually using them to kill, but rather only to defend the innocent and drive off or subdue evildoers. The secular authorities therefore have a duty to protect innocent monks who live virtuously in accordance with the precepts and who teach the True Dharma by using force only when necessary and even then to refrain from actually killing.

Chapter 19 of the Nirvāna Sūtra tells the story of King Sen’yo. According to the story in a past life Śākyamuni Buddha was a king who put to death several brahmins who slandered the Mahāyāna sūtras. Because he took such action to protect the Mahāyāna he never thereafter fell into hell in all his subsequent rebirths. I must note that the Yamamoto translates the passage in question so that the Buddha says: “I, at that time, greatly respected the Mahāyāna. I heard the brahmins slander the vaipulya. Having heard it, I made away with my life.” (Ibid, p. 291, adapted) However, chapter 20 of the Nirvāna Sūtra makes it clear that in the story the king ended not his own life but that of the brahmins. I have looked at the passage in question in Chinese and a literal translation would read that the king “cut off the root of life.” By context it would seem that he cut the root of life of the brahmin slanderers, not his own. I find it a curious expression, and wonder if it is a kind of Buddhist pun, since from a Buddhist point of view the root or roots that keep us entangled in the sufferings of birth and death would be the three poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion. So did King Sen’yo kill himself? Or did he have the brahmins who slandered the Mahāyāna executed? Or did he cut off the roots of greed, hatred, and delusion of himself and the brahmins?

In chapter 20, Kāśyapa Bodhisattva asks, “Why is it that the Tathāgata, when born a king, practicing the Bodhisattva Way, took the life of the brahmins of the palace?” (Ibid, p. 390, adapted) The Buddha says in reply, “You say that the Tathāgata, in days gone by, killed the brahmins. O good man! The bodhisattva-mahāsattva does not purposely kill an ant! How could he a brahmin?” (Ibid, p. 392, adapted). The Buddha explains that his killing of the brahmins does not really count as killing because he did it out of love so that the brahmins would be cast into hell wherein they would realize their error and then be reborn from there into the pure land of a Buddha and gain a life of ten eons. Therefore, the Buddha was actually giving them a life of ten eons. The Buddha explains that sometimes he has to take harsh measures to help people.

Should it be that beings slander the Mahāyāna, he applies kindly lashings in order to cure. Or he may take life in order that when happened in the past could be mended, thus to make it possible for the Dharma to be accorded with. The bodhisattva always thinks: “How might I best make beings aspire to faith? I shall always act as best fits the occasion.” (Ibid, p. 393)

The Buddha further explains that while there are three grades of killing: (1) those who kill animals, even an ant, will be reborn in the hells or as hungry ghosts or animals; (2) those who kill unenlightened people will also be reborn into those realms but will suffer even more; and (3) those who kill their parents, arhats, pratyekabuddhas or bodhisattvas will fall into the Avīci Hell. The killing of an icchantika, or incorrigible disbeliever, does not fit into any of those three and does not bring about any karmic recompense. The brahmins, in slandering the Mahāyāna teaching, had become icchantika and therefore King Sen’yo did not commit an evil act in killing them but a good one in fighting to protect the Mahāyāna and helping the brahmins to awaken. I find that the sūtra’s explanation that the brahmins who were put to death were icchantika and therefore it was okay to kill them is even more disturbing to modern ears than the story it is attempting to explain. It basically amounts to saying that we do not have to value the lives of those who insult our religious convictions and that killing such people is in fact a meritorious deed that will ultimately benefit everyone – even those who have been killed. Today, not a day goes by without stories in the news of those willing to kill those who they feel do not share or respect their religious convictions. Every religiously motivated terrorist in the world feels that they are justified in killing those who do not share their convictions and that they will be given a free pass to heaven for doing so. So I find that this is a very unfortunate example of Mahāyāna rhetoric gone awry. Other passages in the Nirvāna Sūtra mitigate this story and its casuistic explanations, for they suggest that the icchantika may not always be what they appear, and that some might actually be bodhisattvas or else some may repent and cease to be icchantika and that in any case even the icchantika have buddha-nature that will some day come to fruition. Taking these other passages into account, the sūtra seems to be saying that killing even an icchantika is to kill a potential buddha, and therefore a grave crime that can only lead to rebirth in the Avīci Hell. I find these passages to be important warnings to not take the story of King Sen’yo literally.

Another parable cited in relation to the method of subduing is from chapter three of the Nirvāna Sūtra. The Buddha is asked why he now speaks of nirvāna as being pure, blissful, eternal, and the true self. This is confusing to his listeners because he had previously stressed that there is no-self. The Buddha explains that it was because others had incorrectly attributed purity, bliss, eternity, and selfhood to contingent phenomena that he needed to stress impurity, suffering, impermanence, and no-self, but that nirvāna could properly be said to have these positive attributes. He then tells a parable wherein a king puts a doctor on his staff who is actually a charlatan. The charlatan doctor ignorantly prescribes milk based medicines for every illness. An authentic doctor finds out about this and convinces the king to drive away the false doctor and hire him instead. The doctor then has the king outlaw milk based medicines in order to break people’s attachment to them. The king threatens to have anyone who takes such medicine beheaded. The day comes, however, when the king himself falls ill and can only be cured with milk based medicine. The authentic doctor then reveals that in fact there are times when milk based medicine is not ineffectual or harmful but in fact necessary and such is the case with the king’s illness. In this story, at least, no one is actually beheaded. The parable uses the king’s threat to underscore the strong measures needed to break the people of their attachment to the ineffectual and dangerous prescriptions of the charlatan so that they will take up the true doctor’s remedies.

How did Nichiren understand these stories? In Risshō Ankoku-ron, Nichiren stated that while King Sen’yo and King Virutous may have killed slanderers of the Dharma in the past, since the appearance of Śākyamuni Buddha the correct method is to simply deny them offerings. The Nirvāna Sūtra told those stories of the previous lives of Śākyamuni Buddha in order to emphasize the gravity of slandering the True Dharma and the great virtue of defending the True Dharma but such methods are not being advocated in the present. Instead, the withholding of alms and especially state support from corrupt monks and the support and protection of true monks should now be followed. In accordance with our current laws and the wise separation of church and state, I believe this means that each of us must discern what teachings or causes we should or should not support with our time and money and that the protection of the law should extend equally to all so that there will be no question of religious persecution arising from either the government or the actions of private individuals or institutions. Every religious or spiritual teaching should be free to stand or fall on its own merits or lack thereof.

In chapter 26 of the Lotus Sūtra various beings offer protective incantations called dhāranī to safeguard the practitioners of the Lotus Sūtra. One set of these is offered by a formerly malevolent spirit named Hārītī (J. Kishimojin) and her ten daughters and other children and attendants. Hārītī, whose name means “stealer of children,” is a female yaksha, or yakshini, who originally came from the town of Rājagriha. The yakshas are one of the eight kinds of supernatural beings who are said to revere and protect the Dharma. Originally the yakshas appeared as the spirits of the trees and forests and even villages; but they had a fierce side as well, and in their more demonic aspect came to be called rākshasas. According to legend, Hārītī was obsessed with eating the children of Rājagriha. Neither King Bimbisāra nor even the devas were able to stop her, so in desperation the townspeople turned to Śākyamuni Buddha. The Buddha visited her home while she was away and used his supernatural powers to hide her youngest son under his alms bowl. When Hārītī returned and could not find her son she was distraught and finally she herself sought out the Buddha. The Buddha then pointed out to her that if she felt so badly about missing even one child out of 500, she should consider how badly the parents of Rājagriha must feel when she takes away their children when they have so few to begin with. Hearing this, Hārītī felt remorse and compassion for those she had harmed. She repented of her actions; took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; took the five major precepts; and vowed to protect the people of Rājagriha. The Buddha then restored her youngest son to her. In return the Buddha had his monks, from that time on, make a symbolic offer of their food to the hungry ghosts. Hārītī came to be considered a protector of children and women giving birth as well as a protector of the Dharma, and her gentle image as a “giver of children” would sometimes cause her to be confused with Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. As can be seen in chapter 26 of the Lotus Sūtra, her fierce nature showed itself once more in her vow to protect the practitioners of the sūtra, for she and her children sang to the Buddha: “Anyone who does not keep our spells but troubles the expounder of the Dharma shall have his head split into seven pieces just as the branches of the arjaka-tree are split.” (Murano 1991, p. 329) This statements is cited as one example of how the Lotus Sūtra also contains the method of subduing.

The threat requires some explanation. At face value a malevolent spirit converted to Buddhism is threatening to kill those who attack the practitioners of the Lotus Sūtra. This threat to split people’s heads into seven pieces is an old one however, that even appears in the Pāli Canon. In context, it would almost appear to be an idiom for how someone who has been cornered or defeated in an argument must feel. For instance, in the following passage the Buddha presses an arrogant brahmin to admit that his ancestors were not all of the brahmin caste. Because the brahmin is reluctant to answer he finds himself threatened with having his head split by a yaksha.

Then the Lord said to Ambattha: “Ambattha, I have a fundamental question for you, which you will not like to answer. If you don’t answer, or evade the issue, if you keep silent or go away, your head will split into seven pieces. What do you think, Ambattha? Have you heard from old and venerable brahmins, teacher of teachers, where the Kanhāyans come from, or who was their ancestor?” At this, Ambattha remained silent. The Lord asked him a second time. Again Ambattha remained silent, and the Lord said: “Answer me now, Ambattha, this is not a time for silence. Whoever, Ambattha, does not answer a fundamental question put to him by a Tathāgata by the third asking has his head split into seven pieces.”

And at that moment, Vajrapāni the yaksha, holding a huge iron club, flaming, ablaze and glowing, up in the sky just above Ambattha, was thinking: “If this young man Ambattha does not answer a proper question put to him by the Blessed Lord by the third time of asking, I’ll split his head into seven pieces!” The Lord saw Vajrapāni, and so did Ambattha. And at the sight, Ambattha was terrified and unnerved, his hairs stood on end, and he sought protection, shelter, and safety from the Lord. Crouching down close to the Lord, he said: “What did the Reverend Gautama say? May the Reverend Gautama repeat what he said!” “What do you think, Ambattha? Have you heard who was the ancestor of the Kanhāyans?” “Yes, I have heard it just as the Reverend Gautama said, that is where the Kanhāyans come from, he was their ancestor.” (Walshe, pp. 115-116)

The Sutta-Nipāta sheds further light on this metaphorical threat or idiom. A brahmin named Bāvari is cursed to have his head split in pieces by a vengeful beggar. So the monk Ajita asks the Buddha about this for the worried brahmin. The Buddha’s reply indicates that the splitting of the head actually represents the destruction of ignorance. “The head”, said the Master, “is Not-Understanding. The head is split in pieces and destroyed by Understanding, with its army of powers in support: confidence, mindfulness, meditation, and determination – energy. These are the powers that split heads.” (Saddhatissa, p. 118) In other words, the threat of having one’s head split into pieces may be an old idiomatic way of cursing someone with open-mindedness!

Finally there is the story of Never-Despising Bodhisattva in chapter 20 of the Lotus Sūtra that is cited by Nichiren as an example of the method of subduing evil. In the chapter the Buddha tells of a bodhisattva who lived during the age of the counterfeit Dharma of the Powerful-Voice-King Buddha. This bodhisattva’s sole practice was to bow to all he met and say to them, “I respect you deeply. I do not despise you. Why is that? It is because you will be able to practice the Way of bodhisattvas and become buddhas.” (Murano 1991, p. 286) Because of this he was called Never-Despising Bodhisattva. The arrogant monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen at that time felt that he was speaking falsely and so abused him and even threw things at him. Though forced to run away, Never-Despising Bodhisattva did not relent and continued to assure people “in a loud voice from afar” (Ibid, p. 287) that they would become buddhas. In time, those who abused him became his followers and took faith in the teaching that they would be able to attain buddhahood. The Buddha goes on to say that Never-Despising Bodhisattva was himself in a past life and that because he was able to lead so many people into the way to perfect and complete awakening he was able to meet many hundreds of thousands of millions of buddhas and expound the Lotus Sūtra and ultimately become a buddha himself. Those who abused him had to expiate their sins in the Avīci Hell but afterwards were able to become bodhisattvas themselves and meet many buddhas including Śākyamuni Buddha.

In the story of Never-Despising Bodhisattva the method of subduing evil becomes clear. The bodhisattva does not berate or argue with others, nor does he resort to the coercive power of the state. Rather, he forthrightly proclaims the True Dharma that all beings can attain buddhahood in the face of disbelief, abuse, and even violence. Never-Despising Bodhisattva is not only motivated by compassion but his sole practice is a gesture of reverence and respect for the buddha-nature in all beings. When faced with abuse and violence he does not allow himself to be hurt but retreats to a safe distance. Instead of retaliating in kind he continues to voice his deepest conviction and reverence. The method of subduing therefore is about having the courage and compassion to stand up for what is right and to give voice to the True Dharma even though one may meet with derision or even persecution.


Gosho Translation Committee, editor-translator. The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. Tokyo: Soka Gakkai, 1999.

Hori, Kyotsu, comp. Writings of Nichiren Shonin: Doctrine Volume 2. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Overseas Propagation Promotion Association, 2002.

________________. Writings of Nichiren Shonin: Doctrine Volume 1. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Overseas Propagation Promotion Association, 2003.

Murano, Senchu, trans. The Lotus Sutra. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Headquarters, 1991.

_____________. Kaimokusho or Liberation from Blindness. Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2000.

Nanamoli, Bhikkhu and Bodhi, Bhikkhu trans. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya. Boston, Wisdom Publication, 1995.

Nanamoli, Bhikkhu, The Life of the Buddha. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1992.

Saddhatissa, H. The Sutta-Nipāta. Surrey: Curzon Press Ltd., 1994.

Walshe, Maurice, trans. The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995.

Yamamoto, Kosho, trans. Mahaparinirvana-Sutra: A Complete Translation from the Classical Chinese Language in 3 Volumes. Tokyo: Karinbunko, 1973.