THIS CHAPTER IS CALLED Kanji-hon in Japanese. Kan means to exhort or urge others to the teaching, while ji means to hold or to receive and keep. This chapter relates how the virtuous bodhisattvas, who had well understood through the Buddha's preaching hitherto how precious the teaching of the Wonderful Law Flower Sutra is, made a firm resolution to spread abroad this sutra after the extinction of the Buddha, no matter what difficulties they might encounter, and how they vowed to practice it in the presence of the Buddha. One must be firmly resolved to preach the teaching oneself before one exhorts others to it. It is noteworthy that the title, "Exhortation to Hold Firm," does not refer to the exhortation of others to the teaching but to the resolution and vow of the bodhisattvas themselves. This is an essential point that we must not overlook.
In this chapter the Perfect Enlightenment of two women, the Gautami and the Bhikshuni Yasodhara, was predicted. The Gautami was the sister of the Buddha's mother, Mahamaya, who died soon after giving birth to the Buddha, and the Gautami raised Shakyamuni. She nurtured him with no less affection than a true mother and so was named the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati (the way of great affection). The Bhikshuni Yasodhara was the wife of Shakyamuni before he renounced the world, and the mother of Rahula. These two women earnestly wished to become the immediate disciples of the Buddha when his father, King Suddhodana, died. They accumulated religious disciplines as irreproachable bhikshunis.
It may seem strange that the Buddha in his predictions had left them until last and that before mentioning them he had given his prediction to the dragon king's daughter, who was, so to speak, an indirect disciple instructed by Manjushri, and only an eight-year-old girl. This priority has the following meanings. First, as already mentioned in the explanation of the Buddha's prediction to Ananda and Rahula, for those closest to the Buddha, like the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati, who had brought up Shakyamuni from babyhood, and the Bhikshuni Yasodhara, who had been his wife and had given birth to his son, such intimacy could have become a hindrance rather than a help to their practice. The Buddha teaches us that someone like the dragon king's daughter, who is a perfect stranger to the Buddha, can receive the Law with ease, while we may find great difficulty in instructing those closest to us, such as our parents and spouses. The delay of the Buddha's prediction to the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati and the Bhikshuni Yasodhara does not mean that they were considered inferior to the dragon king's daughter.
ALL LIVING BEINGS WILL BECOME BUDDHAS. Another meaning is that as long as the teaching is transmitted rightly and as long as it is received with an obedient mind, anyone can obtain the enlightenment of a buddha. Whoever one may be, whether a direct disciple of the Buddha, someone born after the Buddha's lifetime, or someone in a foreign country, none of these conditions has any bearing on the possibility of one's attainment of buddhahood. If a person receives the right teaching as it is, he can be saved. The eight-year-old daughter of the dragon king symbolizes an obedient mind like that of a child. She symbolizes the vastness and boundlessness of the Buddha's teaching, showing that all are equally saved regardless of nationality and of whether they are human beings or not. We must realize that the Buddha's preaching in this chapter has a much deeper meaning than just the indication of women's attainment of buddhahood.
In the present age, women seem to be much more religiously inclined than men. There are various reasons for this, but the deepest and greatest reason is considered to be that women have the duty to give birth to the life of the next generation. Most men are harried by business affairs. To put it briefly, one must work as hard as he can just to support his family, while another devotes himself to making his shop or company prosperous. On the other hand, women think instinctively of their next life and their eternal life in the depths of their minds, although they are not conscious of it. Thus their religious feeling becomes strong, which is quite natural.
Women practice religious disciplines eagerly. We can view their practice thus. Women have the strong point of being very patient in repeating the same thing over and over. They never tire of repeatedly making the same stitch thousands of times in knitting. As mentioned before, a discipline is nothing but seeking one's elevation by patiently repeating something beneficial to one's mind or body. In their religious disciplines, women exhibit their special characteristics.
Meanwhile, it should not be thought that men are entirely lacking in the characteristics found in women. When I enlisted in the Japanese navy and lived on board ship, I used to knit, together with my fellow sailors. I could knit gloves and stomach warmers as skillfully as a woman. When men enter such a life-environment, they may turn out to have characteristics that enable them to repeat something as patiently as women. Men do not have to feel discouraged at their lack of patience in doing things that women can do. As preached in chapter 5, all have the possibility of being equally saved, whatever their individual differences may be.
Now let us proceed to the main subject of chapter 13. All in the great assembly were deeply moved by the vivid scene of the dragon's daughter becoming a buddha. At that time the Bodhisattva Medicine King and the Bodhisattva Great Eloquence, with their retinues of many bodhisattvas, all in the presence of the Buddha made this vow: "Be pleased, World-honored One, to be without anxiety! After the extinction of the Buddha we will devote ourselves to spreading abroad this honorable teaching. In the evil age to come, living beings will decrease in their good qualities, while they will increase in utter arrogance and in covetousness of gain and honors, develop their evil qualities, and be far removed from emancipation. Though it may be difficult to teach and convert them, we, arousing our utmost patience, will observe this teaching and spare not our body and life to preach it." The motto of believers of the Lotus Sutra, "Not to spare body or life for the cause of the Law," comes from this verse.
Thereupon the five hundred arhats in the assembly and the eight thousand arhats, training and trained, made this vow: "World-honored One! We also will publish abroad this teaching in other lands because the virtuous bodhisattvas have undertaken to teach and convert the people in the saha world, where there will be many difficulties."
Then the aunt of the Buddha, the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati, with many bhikshunis, training and trained, rose up from their seats, with one mind joined their palms together, and gazed up at the honored face without removing their eyes for a moment. Then the World-honored One addressed the Gautami: "Why, with sad countenance, do you gaze at the Tathagata? Are you not thinking that I have not mentioned your name and predicted you to Perfect Enlightenment? Gautami! I have already inclusively announced that the future of all shravakas is predicted. Everyone who desires to obtain the enlightenment of a buddha and devotes himself to doing so will surely become a buddha regardless of being man or woman."
Speaking thus, the Buddha gave his prediction of Perfect Enlightenment to the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati and the six thousand bhikshunis, training and trained.
Thereupon the mother of Rahula, the Bhikshuni Yasodhara, reflected thus: "The World-honored One in his predictions has left my name alone unmentioned. But I have the determination to endeavor to practice the bodhisattva way as hard as I can. I wish the Buddha would predict my Perfect Enlightenment." Then the World-honored One, perceiving her thoughts, immediately gave her his prediction of buddhahood. Thereupon the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati and the Bhikshuni Yasodhara together with their retinues rejoiced greatly and offered him their heartfelt thanks. The bhikshunis declared to the Buddha that they would endeavor to spread the Lotus Sutra in other lands.
Thereupon the World-honored One looked upon the infinite bodhisattvas. All these bodhisattvas were of the stage avaivartika, 1 who rolled the never-retreating Law wheel, never neglecting to preach the teaching, and had attained the dharanis, that is, the power of checking all evils by all virtues. Having seen that the Buddha was gazing at them, they immediately rose from their seats, went before him, with one mind joined their palms together, and reflected thus: "If the World-honored One commands us to keep and expound this sutra, we will proclaim abroad this Law as the Buddha has taught it. The Buddha now is silent. We are not commanded; what shall we do?"
Then these bodhisattvas, respectfully obeying the Buddha's will and themselves desiring to fulfill their original vow, raised a lion's roar before the Buddha and uttered this vow: "World-honored One! After the extinction of the Tathagata we will compass and travel through the worlds in all directions in order to lead all the living to believe in this sutra and to exhort others to practice it as their law and rightly keep it in mind, all by the Buddha's might. Be pleased, World-honored One, after your extinction, to behold and guard us!"
Then the bodhisattvas all together raised their voices, speaking in verse to the following effect: "Be pleased to be without anxiety! After the Buddha's extinction, we will proclaim abroad this Law in the last dreadful evil age. Though in their ignorance many will curse and abuse us and persecute us, we will endure it all. Bhikshus in that evil age will be heretical, suspicious, and warped, claiming to have attained what they have not, and will have minds full of arrogance. Others in aranyas2 will wear patched garments3 and live in seclusion, pretending that they walk the true path and scorning other people."
THREE KINDS OF POWERFUL ENEMIES. Three kinds of arrogance are mentioned in these words of the bodhisattvas. First, some people irresponsibly curse and persecute believers of the Lotus Sutra even though they know nothing about the teaching. These are the "people of worldly arrogance" (zokushu-zojoman).
Secondly, some men of religion take it for granted that even a worthless teaching is good, abuse the Lotus Sutra, and obstruct those who preach it. They are the "people of religious arrogance" (domon-zojoman).
Thirdly, some men of religion inwardly have the desire for fame and wealth, although they assume as grave an air as saints. Since they pretend to have transcended the world, many influential people follow them. They lead negative religious lives and preach negative teachings. For this reason, they feel somewhat embarrassed by the Lotus Sutra as a positive teaching that can save ordinary people and they try to oppress believers of the sutra and obstruct them in their preaching. These are the "people of excessive arrogance" (sensho-zojoman) toward the believers of the Lotus Sutra. This third group, the "people of excessive arrogance," are said to be the most injurious to others.
The bodhisattvas declared: "The people of excessive arrogance, though they try to appear enlightened, are greedily attached to worldly desire, and lust for power and fame. They preach the Law to rich laymen and are revered by the world just like arhats of transcendent powers. These men, harboring evil minds, ever thinking of earthly things, love to calumniate those who preach the Lotus Sutra to the people.
"These men of arrogance say such things of us as, 'All these bhikshus preach a heretical doctrine from love of gain; they have themselves composed this sutra to delude the people of the world.' In order to ruin us, they are always in the assemblies and slander us to kings, ministers, Brahmans, and citizens and to the other groups of bhikshus. They say, 'These are men of false views, who proclaim heretical doctrines.'"
However severely the three kinds of powerful enemies may persecute the believers of the Lotus Sutra, the latter should preach the sutra widely without retrogressing from the stage of perfection they have attained. Such determination is shown in the following strong words of the bodhisattvas: "But we, from reverence for the Buddha, will endure all these evils. We will revere this sutra of the highest teaching as much as the Buddha. In order to keep it and spread it widely, we will put up with whatever persecution comes to us. Others contemptuously address us as 'All you buddhas!' We will patiently endure even this scorn and arrogance.
"Various fears and dreads abound in the evil age of the corrupt. Devils will take possession of them to curse, abuse, and insult us. But we, revering and believing in the Buddha, will wear the armor of perseverance and will protect the Law with a nonviolent but dauntless attitude. We will endure all these hard things for the sake of preaching this sutra. We will not love body and life, but care only for the supreme Way.
"Throughout all ages to come, we will guard what the Buddha bequeaths. Vicious bhikshus in the corrupt ages, knowing not the Law so tactfully preached by the Buddha according to the conditions, will abuse and frown upon us; repeatedly we will be driven out and exiled afar from the monasteries. Such evils will be our ills for remembering the Buddha's command, but we will endure all these things.
"Thus we do not fear whatever difficulties and whatever persecutions may befall us. If there are those who seek after the Law whether in villages and cities or wherever a strong enemy watches, we will all go there and preach the Law bequeathed by the Buddha. We are the apostles of the World-honored One and we have nothing to fear amid the multitude. We will rightly preach the Law. Be pleased, O Buddha, to abide in peace. In the presence of the World-honored One and the buddhas from all directions we thus make our vow, and the Buddha knows our hearts. Permit us to preach this Law in the corrupt age."
Indeed, these words were a lion's roar of self-confidence and courage. "We, revering and believing in the Buddha, / Will wear the armor of perseverance; / For the sake of preaching this sutra / We will endure all these hard things." - whenever believers read and recite this portion of the closing verse of chapter 13, they will be heartened and feel courage well up anew from the depths of their hearts. For believers of the Lotus Sutra, this can be said to be one of the most important verses in the sutra.
- The stage of nonretrogression from the degree of perfection already attained.
- Aranya is a general term for Buddhist monasteries.
- That is, monk's garments made of patches of cloth sewn together.
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.