During his first forty and more years of teaching, Shakyamuni Buddha kept secret the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. Not only that, he still remained silent concerning them when he preached the first fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sutra, which comprise the theoretical teaching. It was only with the Life Span chapter that he spoke openly regarding the two characters of renge, which [represent the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo and] indicate the true effect and the true cause.3 The Buddha did not entrust these five characters to Manjushri, Universal Worthy, Maitreya, Medicine King, or the others of their group. Instead he summoned forth the bodhisattvas Superior Practices, Boundless Practices, Pure Practices, and Firmly Established Practices and their followers from the great earth of Tranquil Light and transferred the five characters to them.
What took place then was no ordinary ceremony. The Thus Come One Many Treasures, who lives in the World of Treasure Purity, made his appearance, seated in a tower that emerged from the earth and was adorned with seven kinds of treasures. Shakyamuni purified four hundred ten thousand million nayutas of worlds in addition to this major world system, planted them with rows of jeweled trees measuring five hundred yojanas high at intervals of an arrow-shot length, placed a lion seat five yojanas in height beneath each jeweled tree, and seated on these seats all the Buddhas from the ten directions, who were his emanations.
Thereupon the Thus Come One Shakyamuni removed his soiled robe, opened the treasure tower, and took a seat beside the Thus Come One Many Treasures. It was as though the sun and moon had appeared side by side in the blue sky, or as though the heavenly king Shakra and the king Born from the Crown of the Head4 had been able to sit together in the Hall of the Good
Law. Manjushri and the other bodhisattvas of this world, and Perceiver of the Worlds Sounds and the other bodhisattvas of the other worlds were gathered together in open space throughout the ten directions like so many stars filling the sky.
At this time in this place the great bodhisattvas, such as Dharma Wisdom, Forest of Merits, Diamond Banner, and Diamond Storehouse, equal in number to the dust particles of the worlds of the ten directions, who had gathered at the seven places and eight assemblies of the Flower Garland Sutra5 and were disciples of Vairochana Buddha, who sits on the lotus pedestal of the worlds of the ten directions; the Buddhas and bodhisattvas who had gathered like clouds at the Great Treasure Chamber when the sutras of the Correct and Equal period were preached; Subhuti, Shakra, and the thousand Buddhas who had gathered to hear the Wisdom sutras; the four Buddhas and four bodhisattvas,6 included among the nine honored ones on the eight-petaled lotus of the Mahavairochana Sutra; the thirty-seven honored ones7 of the Diamond Crown Sutra; and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the realm of phenomena in the ten directions who are to gather at the city of Kushinagara to listen to the Nirvana Sutra all these assembled. All these figures were recognized by Manjushri, Maitreya, and the others of their group, who talked together with them, so it appeared that the great bodhisattvas, such as Manjushri and Maitreya, were quite accustomed to their being in attendance.
It was under such circumstances that the four bodhisattvas emerged from the earth. When Bodhisattva Manjushri, whose teaching the Thus Come One Shakyamuni was the ninth to inherit8 and who is the mother of the Buddhas of the three existences,9 and Bodhisattva Maitreya, who will succeed Shakyamuni Buddha after his