the sky. Sutras such as the Devotion to Amida Buddha Sutra5 are like pheasants or rabbits. Seized by the eagle, their tears flow; pursued by the lion, fear grips their bowels. And the same is true of people like the Nembutsu adherents, the Precepts priests, the Zen priests, and the True Word teachers. When they come face to face with the votary of the Lotus Sutra, their color drains away and their spirits fail.
As for what sort of doctrines are taught in this wonderful Lotus Sutra, beginning with the Expedient Means chapter in the first volume, it teaches that bodhisattvas, persons of the two vehicles, and ordinary people are all capable of attaining Buddhahood. But as of yet no examples exist to prove this assertion. It is like a guest whom we meet for the first time. His appearance is attractive, his heart is brave, and on hearing him speak, we have no reason to doubt him. Yet because we have never seen him before and have no proof of the things he says, we find it difficult to believe him on the basis of his words alone. But if we repeatedly see evidence to support the major points he makes at this time, we will be able to trust what he says from now on as well.
For all those who wished to believe the Lotus Sutra and yet could not do so with complete certainty, the fifth volume presents what is the heart and core of the entire sutra, the doctrine of attaining Buddhahood in ones present form. It is as though, for instance, a black object were to become white, black lacquer to become like snow, an unclean thing to become clean and pure, or a wish-granting jewel to be placed into muddy water [to make it transparent]. Here it is told how the dragon girl became a Buddha in her reptilian form. And at that moment there was no longer anyone who doubted that all men can attain Buddhahood. This is why I say that the
enlightenment of women is expounded as a model.
For this reason, the Great Teacher Dengyo, the founder of Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei, who was the first to spread the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra in Japan, commented on this point as follows: Neither teacher nor disciples need undergo countless kalpas of austere practice in order to attain Buddhahood. Through the power of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law they can do so in their present form.6 And the Great Teacher Tientai Chih-che of China, who expounded the true meaning of the Lotus Sutra first in that country, stated, The other sutras only predict Buddhahood . . . for men, but not for women; . . . This sutra predicts Buddhahood for all.7
Do not these interpretations make clear that, among all the teachings of the Buddhas lifetime, the Lotus Sutra is first, and that, among the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, that of women attaining Buddhahood is first? For this reason, though the women of Japan may be condemned in all sutras other than the Lotus as incapable of attaining Buddhahood, as long as the Lotus guarantees their enlightenment, what reason have they to be downcast?
Now I, Nichiren, was born as a human being, something difficult to achieve, and I have encountered the Buddhas teachings, which are but rarely to be met with. Moreover, among all the teachings of the Buddha, I was able to meet the Lotus Sutra. When I stop to consider my good fortune, I realize that I am indebted to my parents, indebted to the ruler, and indebted to all living beings.
With regard to the debt of gratitude owed to our parents, our father may be likened to heaven and our mother to the earth, and it would be difficult to say to which parent we are the more indebted. But it is particularly difficult to repay the great kindness of our mother.