that the Buddha prophesied that that person would encounter persecution, I cannot possibly express my joy.
It is already twenty-four or twenty- five years since I began studying Buddhism. Yet I have believed wholeheartedly in the Lotus Sutra only for the past six or seven years. Moreover, although I had faith in the sutra, because I was negligent and because of my studies and the interruptions of mundane affairs, each day I would recite only a single scroll, a chapter, or the title. Now, however, for a period of more than 240 daysfrom the twelfth day of the fifth month of last year to the sixteenth day of the first month of this yearI think I have practiced the Lotus Sutra twenty-four hours each day and night. I say so because, having been exiled on the Lotus Sutras account, I now read and practice it continuously, whether I am walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. For anyone born human, what greater joy could there be?
It is the way of ordinary people that, even though they spur themselves on to arouse the aspiration for enlightenment and wish for happiness in the next life, they exert themselves no more than one or two out of all the hours of the day, and this only after reminding themselves to do so. As for myself, I read the Lotus Sutra without having to remember to, and practice it even when I do not read its words aloud.
During the course of countless kalpas, while transmigrating through the six paths and the four forms of birth, I may at times have risen in revolt, committed theft, or broken into others homes at night and, on account of these offenses, been convicted by the ruler and condemned to exile or death. This time, however, it is because I am so firmly resolved to propagate the Lotus Sutra that people with evil karma have brought false charges against me; hence my exile. Surely this will work in my
favor in future lifetimes. In this latter age, there cannot be anyone else who upholds the Lotus Sutra twenty-four hours of the day and night without making a deliberate effort to do so.
There is one other thing for which I am most grateful. While transmigrating in the six paths for the duration of countless kalpas, I may have encountered a number of sovereigns and become their favorite minister or regent. If so, I must have been granted fiefs and accorded treasures and stipends. Never once, however, did I encounter a sovereign in whose country the Lotus Sutra had spread, so that I could hear its name, practice it and, on that very account, be slandered by other people and have the ruler send me into exile. The Lotus Sutra states, As for this Lotus Sutra, throughout immeasurable numbers of lands one cannot even hear its name, much less be able to see it, accept and embrace, read and recite it.6 Thus those people who slandered me and the ruler [who had me banished] are the very persons to whom I owe the most profound debt of gratitude.
One who studies the teachings of Buddhism must not fail to repay the four debts of gratitude. According to the Contemplation on the Mind- Ground Sutra, the first of the four debts is that owed to all living beings. Were it not for them, one would find it impossible to make the vow to save innumerable living beings. Moreover, but for the evil people who persecute bodhisattvas, how could those bodhisattvas increase their merit?
The second of the four debts is that owed to ones father and mother. To be born into the six paths, one must have parents. If one is born into the family of a murderer, a thief, a violator of the rules of proper conduct, or a slanderer of the Law, then even though one may not commit these offenses oneself, one in effect forms the same karma as those