- I recite these two bits of prose, called the “Expedient Means” chapter and the “Life Span” chapter because Jill, the person who introduced me did so.
- Jillian does so because Roger Edwards did so. And likewise, Richard Causton.
- Richard Causton did so because that’s what Daisaku Ikeda does.
- Daisaku Ikeda does so because Toda did so.
- Toda did so because Makiguchi did so.
- Makiguchi did so because he was searching for ‘something’ and found that the Nichiren Shoshu sect of Buddhism closely fitted his ideals.
- The monks of Nichiren Shoshu do so because there’s a long chain of monks and disciples going back to 1275 that did so.
In 1275, Nichiren Daishonin wrote a letter to a lay priest called Soya, where he said,
I have written out the prose section of the “Expedient Means” chapter for you. You should recite it together with the verse portion of the “Life Span” chapter, which I sent you earlier.
The characters of this sutra are all without exception living Buddhas of perfect enlightenment. But because we have the eyes of ordinary people, we see them as characters. For instance, hungry spirits perceive the Ganges River as fire, human beings perceive it as water, and heavenly beings perceive it as amrita. Though the water is the same, it appears differently according to one’s karmic reward from the past.
The blind cannot see the characters of this sutra. To the eyes of ordinary people, they look like characters. Persons of the two vehicles perceive them as the void. Bodhisattvas look on them as innumerable doctrines. Buddhas recognize each character as a golden Shakyamuni. This is what is meant by the passage that says, “[If one can uphold this sutra], one will be upholding the Buddha’s body.” Those who practice with distorted views, however, are destroying this most precious sutra. You should simply be careful that, without differing thoughts, you single-mindedly aspire to the pure land of Eagle Peak. A passage in the Six Paramitas Sutra says ‘to become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you‘. I will explain in detail when I see you.
With my deep respect,
The third month in the twelfth year of Bun’ei (1275)
To the lay priest Soya
So there we have it. I recite those bits because Nichiren said so in this letter, and everyone since has been mindful to ‘uphold the sutra‘ and ‘not practice with distorted views‘.
Amazingly, for hundreds of years, many people have managed to keep both the spirit and the content of this letter going, sometimes against great adversity.
Link to SGI Online content for this letter: Reply to the Lay Priest Soya