trees and plants cannot grow. Likewise, even though Buddhism existed, without the members of the Order who studied it and passed it on, it would never have been transmitted throughout the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days into the Latter Day of the Law. Accordingly, the Great Collection Sutra states: Suppose that, in the last of the five five-hundred-year periods, there should be someone who harasses unlearned monks without precepts by accusing them of some offense. You should know that this person is extinguishing the great torch of Buddhism. Therefore, the debt we owe to the Order is difficult to recompense.
Thus it is imperative that one repay ones debt of gratitude to the three treasures. In ancient times, there were sages such as the boy Snow Mountains, Bodhisattva Ever Wailing, Bodhisattva Medicine King, and King Universal Brightness, all of whom [offered their lives in order to make such repayment]. The first offered his body as food to a demon. The second sold his own blood and marrow. The third burned his arms, and the fourth was ready to part with his head. Ordinary people in this latter age, however, though receiving the benefits of the three treasures, completely neglect to repay them. How, then, can they attain the Buddha way? The Contemplation on the Mind-Ground, the Brahma Net, and other sutras state that those who study Buddhism and receive the precepts of perfect and immediate enlightenment must repay the four debts of gratitude without fail. I am but an ignorant ordinary person made of flesh and blood; I have not rid myself of even a fraction of the three categories of illusion. Yet, on account of the Lotus Sutra, I have been reviled, slandered, attacked with swords and staves, and sent into exile. In light of these persecutions, I believe I may be likened to the great sages who burned their arms, crushed their
marrow, or did not begrudge being beheaded. This is what I mean by immense joy.
The second of the two important matters is that I feel intense grief. The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: If there should be an evil person who, his mind destitute of goodness, should for the space of a kalpa appear in the presence of the Buddha and constantly curse and revile the Buddha, that persons offense would still be rather light. But if there were a person who spoke only one evil word to curse or defame the lay persons or monks or nuns who read and recite the Lotus Sutra, then his offense would be very grave.12 When I read this and similar passages, my belief is aroused, sweat breaks out from my body, and tears fall from my eyes like rain. I grieve that, by being born in this country, I have caused so many of its people to create the worst karma possible in a lifetime. Those who beat and struck Bodhisattva Never Disparaging came to repent of it while they were alive; yet, even so, their offenses were so difficult to expiate that they fell into the Avichi hell and remained there for a thousand kalpas. But those who have done me harm have not yet repented of it even in the slightest.
Describing the karmic retribution that such people must receive, the Great Collection Sutra states: [The Buddha asked], If there should be a person who draws blood from the bodies of a thousand, ten thousand, or a million Buddhas, in your thinking, how is it? Will he have committed a grave offense or not? The great king Brahma replied: If a person causes the body of even a single Buddha to bleed, he will have committed an offense so serious that he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. His offense will be unfathomably grave, and he will have to remain in the great Avichi hell for so many kalpas that their number