I HAVE heard that you are suffering from illness. Is this true? The impermanence of this world is such that even the healthy cannot remain forever, let alone those who are ill. Thoughtful persons should therefore prepare their minds for the life to come. Yet one cannot prepare ones mind for the next life by ones own efforts alone. Only on the basis of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the original teacher of all living beings, can one do so.
The Buddhas teachings, however, are various, perhaps because peoples minds also differ greatly. In any event, Shakyamuni Buddha taught for no more than fifty years. Among the teachings he expounded during the first forty and more years, we find the Flower Garland Sutra, which says, The mind, the Buddha, and all living beingsthese three things are without distinction; the Agama sutras, which set forth the principles of suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and nonself; the Great Collection Sutra, which asserts the interpenetration of the defiled aspect and the pure aspect;1 the Larger Wisdom Sutra, which teaches mutual identification and nonduality; and the Two-Volumed, Meditation, and Amida sutras, which emphasize rebirth in the Land of Perfect Bliss. All of these teachings were expounded specifically for the purpose of saving all living
beings in the Former, Middle, and Latter Days of the Law.
Nevertheless, for some reason of his own, the Buddha declared in the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, [Preaching the Law in various different ways], I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth. Like a parent who has second thoughts about the transfer deed he wrote out earlier, Shakyamuni looked back with regret upon all the sutras he had expounded during the previous forty and more years, including those that taught rebirth in the Land of Perfect Bliss, and declared that though immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable asamkhya kalpas may pass, they will in the end fail to gain unsurpassed enlightenment [through these sutras].2 He reiterated this in the Expedient Means chapter of the Lotus Sutra, saying, Honestly discarding expedient means, I will preach only the unsurpassed way. By discarding expedient means, he meant that one should discard the Nembutsu and other teachings preached during those more than forty years.
Having thus undoubtedly regretted and reversed his previous teachings, he made clear his true intention, saying, The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth,3 and For long he