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The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin - Page 132

A SAGE AND AN UNENLIGHTENED MAN (I)

are not contained within this name?

“If one uses the term ‘birds,’ people know that one is talking about creatures that fly in the sky; if one says ‘beasts,’ people understand that one is referring to animals that run over the ground. In all things, names are of great importance precisely because they can convey general meanings in this way. This is what the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai meant when he said that names convey the basic nature of a thing while phrases describe how it differs from other things, or when he said that names designate the fundamental character of a thing.

“In addition, names have the virtue of being able to summon the things to which they refer, and things as a matter of function respond to the name that refers to them. In similar fashion, the name, or daimoku, of the Lotus Sutra has the power [to summon the Buddha nature to which it refers].”

The unenlightened man said: “If it is as you say, then the blessings of the daimoku are very great indeed. But these blessings must differ according to whether or not one understands the significance of the daimoku. I am a man who carries a bow and arrows and devotes himself to the profession of arms. I have no understanding of the true nature of the Buddhist teachings. How could a person such as I gain any great amount of good fortune?”

The sage replied: “According to the principle of the perfect and immediate enlightenment, there is no essential difference between the earlier and later stages of practice, and the blessings of the advanced stages are inherent in the initial stages as well. To carry out one practice is to carry out all practices, and there is no blessing that is not included therein.

“If the situation were as you say and one could not obtain good fortune until after one had understood the truth of Buddhism, then no one, from

the bodhisattvas at the stage of near- perfect enlightenment on down to those at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth, would be able to obtain any good fortune at all. This is because, as the Lotus Sutra says, the truth can only be understood ‘between Buddhas.’96

“In the ‘Simile and Parable’ chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha declares, ‘Even you, Shariputra, in the case of this sutra were able to gain entrance through faith alone. How much more so, then, the other voice-hearers!’

“This passage is saying that even Shariputra, who was known for his great wisdom, was, with respect to the Lotus Sutra, able to gain entrance through faith and not through the power of his wisdom. How much more so, therefore, does this hold true with the other voice-hearers!

“Thus, with the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, Shariputra, because he had faith, was able to rid himself of the name of one who could never attain Buddhahood and was told that he would in time become the Thus Come One Flower Glow.

“It is like the case of a baby being given milk to drink. Even though the baby may not understand the flavor of milk, the milk naturally nurtures the baby’s growth. Similarly, if a physician gives medicine to a sick person, even though the sick person may not know the origin and nature of the medicine, if he takes it, then in the natural course of events his illness will be cured. But if he objects that he does not know the origin of the medicine that the physician gives him and for that reason declines to take it, do you think his illness will ever be cured? Whether he understands the medicine or not, so long as he takes it, he will in either case be cured.

“The Buddha has already been called a skilled physician, and the Law has been likened to good medicine and