You are on page 1of 3

Lessening the Karmic Retribution

There were two brothers called Suri and Handoku [1]. Both of
them answered to the name Suri Handoku. You three
believers are like them. When any one of you comes, I
feel as though all three of you were with me.
The Nirvana Sutra teaches the principle of lessening karmic
retribution. If one's heavy karma from the past is not
expiated within this lifetime, he must undergo the
sufferings of hell in the future, but if he experiences
extreme hardship in this life, the sufferings of hell will
vanish instantly. When he dies, he will obtain the
blessings of Rapture and Tranquility, as well as those of
the three vehicles and the supreme vehicle.
Bodhisattva Fukyo was not abused and vilified, stoned
and beaten with staves without reason. He had
probably slandered the True Law in the past. The phrase
"after expiating his sins"[2] indicates that because
Bodhisattva Fukyo met persecution, he could eradicate
his sins from previous lifetimes.
The twenty-four successors [3] were all emissaries from the
Buddha, who had predicted their advent. Of these, the
fifteenth, Bodhisattva Kanadeva, was killed by a
Brahman, and the twenty-fourth, Aryasinha, was
beheaded by King Danmira. Buddhamitra and
Bodhisattva Nargarjuna also suffered many
persecutions. Yet others propagated Buddhism under
the protection of devout kings, without encountering
persecution. This would seem to show that there are
both good and evil countries in the world, and
accordingly there are two ways of propagation, shoju
and shakubuku. Persecutions occurred even in the
Former and Middle Days of the Law -- even in India, the
center of Buddhism. Now is the beginning of the Latter

Day, and this country is far away from India. I therefore


expected that persecutions would arise, and I have long
been awaiting them.
I expounded this principle a long time ago; so it should not
be new to you. Kangyo-soku is one of the six stages of
practice in the perfect teaching. It means that one does
as he speaks and speaks as he does. Those at the
stages of ri-soku and myoji-soku believe in the perfect
teaching, but even though they praise it, their actions
fail to reflect their words. For example, many people
study the books of the Three Great Rulers [4] and the
Five Emperors, but there is not one case in ten million
where society is governed as those ancient Chinese
sages taught. Thus it is very difficult to establish peace
in society. One may be letter-perfect in reciting the
Lotus Sutra, but it is far more difficult to practice as it
teaches. The Hiyu chapter states, "They will despise,
hate, envy and bear grudges against those who read,
recite, transcribe and embrace this sutra." The Hosshi
chapter reads, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even
during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will
it be in the world after his passing?" The Kanji chapter
reads, "They will attack us with swords and staves...we
will be banished again and again." The Anrakugyo
chapter states, "The people will be full of hostility, and
it will be extremely difficult to believe." These
quotations are from the sutra, but there is no way of
knowing when these prophecies will be fulfilled. In the
past, Bodhisattva Fukyo and Priest Kakutoku read and
lived these passages. But aside from the Former and
Middle Days of the Law, now in the Latter Day, in all
Japan only Nichiren seems to have done so. From my
present situation, I can well imagine how followers,
relatives, disciples and believers must have grieved
when so many of their saints met persecution in the
ancient days of evil kings.
Nichiren has now read the entirety of the Lotus Sutra. Even a
single phrase or passage will assure one's

Enlightenment; since I have read the entire sutra, my


benefits will be far greater. Though I may sound
presumptuous, my most fervent wish is to enable the
whole nation to attain enlightenment. However, in an
age when none will heed me, it is beyond my power. I
will close now to keep this brief.

Nichiren
The fifth day of the tenth month in the eighth year 1271 C. E.
Footnotes:
1. Suri and Handoku: Sons of a Brahman family
in Shakyamuni's time, said to be so stupid that
they were unable to distinguish between each
other; both would come running when one was
called. The Daishonin compares their closeness
to the staunch unity of the three believers from
Shimousa.
2. Lotus Sutra, chap. 20.
3. The number and ordering of the Buddha's
successors differs slightly according to different
documents. The translation here is based on
the Daishonin's full list of them, which appears
in page 1103 of the Gosho Zenshu.
4. Books of the Three Great Rulers and Five
Emperors: Writings popularly ascribed to eight
legendary emperors of ancient China.
Confucius is traditionally thought to have
incorporated them into his work, the Book of
Documents, one of his Five Classics. Little is
known about the contents of these works, but
the legendary emperors are said to have
realized a model government.