Question: Is it possible, without understanding the meaning of the Lotus Sutra, but merely by chanting the five or seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo once a day, once a month, or simply once a year, once a decade, or once in a lifetime, to avoid being drawn into trivial or serious acts of evil, to escape falling into the four evil paths, and instead to eventually reach the stage of non-regression?
Answer: Yes, it is. Question: You may talk about fire, but unless you put your hand in a flame, you will never burn yourself. You may say water, water! but unless you actually drink it, you will never satisfy your thirst. Then how, just by chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo without understanding what it means, can you escape from the evil paths of existence?
Answer: They say that, if you play a koto strung with a lions sinews, then all the other kinds of strings will snap. And if you so much as hear the words pickled plum, your mouth will begin to water. Even in everyday life there are such wonders, so how much greater are the wonders of the Lotus Sutra!
We are told that parrots, simply by twittering the four noble truths of the
Hinayana teachings, were able to be reborn in heaven,1 and that men, simply by respecting the three treasures, were able to escape being swallowed by a huge fish.2 How much more effective, then, is the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, which is the very heart of all the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Buddhism and the eye of all the Buddhas! How can you doubt that by chanting it you can escape from the four evil paths?
The Lotus Sutra, wherein the Buddha honestly discarded expedient means, says that one can gain entrance through faith alone.3 And the Nirvana Sutra, which the Buddha preached in the grove of sal trees on the last day of his life, states, Although there are innumerable practices that lead to enlightenment, if one teaches faith, then that includes all those practices.
Thus faith is the basic requirement for entering the way of the Buddha. In the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice, the first ten stages, dealing with faith, are basic, and the first of these ten stages is that of arousing pure faith. Though lacking in knowledge of Buddhism, a person of faith, even if dullwitted, is to be reckoned as a person of correct views. But even though one has some knowledge of Buddhism, if one is without faith, then one is to be