You will be as nervous and uneasy at heart as a person who tries to ride an unruly horse over a rocky slope.
On the other hand, if you believe these doctrines, you will become a Buddha of perfect enlightenment. How, then, are you to go about nurturing faith in the Lotus Sutra? For if you try to practice the teachings of the sutra without faith, it would be like trying to enter a jeweled mountain without hands [to pick up its treasures], or like trying to make a thousand-mile journey without feet. The answer is simply to examine the proof that is close at hand, and thus to take hold of faith that is far off.
On the first day of the first month of the Buddhas eightieth year, when he had finished preaching the Lotus Sutra, he made this announcement: Ananda, Maitreya, Mahakashyapa I came into the world in order to preach the Lotus Sutra. I have accomplished my original intention, and now there is no further reason for me to remain in the world. Three months from now, on the fifteenth day of the second month, I will enter nirvana.15
Everyone, both those among the Buddhas followers and outsiders, doubted this pronouncement. But since the Buddhas words are never spoken in vain, when the fifteenth day of the second month at last came, he did in fact enter nirvana. As a result, people recognized that the golden words of the Buddha were true, and they began to have a certain amount of faith in his words.
The Buddha made another prediction, saying: A hundred years after I pass away, a ruler named Ashoka the Great will appear. He will rule over one-third of the continent of Jambudvipa, and will erect eighty-four thousand stupas and pay honor to my relics. People doubted this statement as well, but just as the Buddha had predicted, the king appeared; and from
this time onward, people believed.
The Buddha also said, Four hundred years after I pass away, there will be a great ruler named King Kanishka. He will gather together a group of five hundred arhats, and they will compile the work known as The Great Commentary on the Abhidharma. This prediction also came about just as the Buddha had stated.
As a result of these proofs, people came to believe the predictions of the Buddha. If, therefore, the two doctrines I cited earlier are nothing but lies, then everything that is in the Lotus Sutra must be a lie.
In the Life Span chapter the Buddha says that he became a Buddha numberless major world system dust particle kalpas in the past. We are ordinary human beings; we can hardly remember what has happened to us since our birth in this present existence, much less what happened one or two lifetimes back. How, then, can we be expected to have faith in what happened numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago?
Moreover, the Buddha made a prediction to Shariputra, saying, In ages to come, after a countless, boundless, inconceivable number of kalpas have passed, . . . you will be able to become a Buddha with the name Flower Glow Thus Come One.16 He also made a prediction concerning Mahakashyapa, saying, In future existences . . . And in his final incarnation he will be able to become a Buddha named Light Bright Thus Come One.17
But these passages in the sutra concern events in the distant future, and so it is difficult to expect ordinary people like ourselves to have faith in them. It is thus difficult for ordinary people, who have no knowledge of the distant past or future, to have faith in this sutra. That being the case, even if we were to carry out its practice, what meaning could it have for us?