Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra

All the various teachings of the Buddha are spread by persons. As T’ien-t’ai said: “Even during the Buddha’s lifetime, the Law was revealed by people. How, then, in the latter age, can one say that the Law is worthy of respect, but that the person who upholds it is to be despised?” Hence, if the Law that one embraces is supreme, then the person who embraces it must accordingly be foremost among all others.

(Passage from “Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p61)

Although there are different opinions concerning the date of this letter, it is generally accepted that Nichiren Daishonin wrote it in the third month of the year 1263, shortly after he had been pardoned from exile on the Izu Peninsular and had returned to Kamakura. The recipient is not known.

As the title indicates, this work discusses the significance of embracing the Lotus Sutra and is written in the form of questions and answers.

Nichiren Buddhism, no matter how wonderful its teaching may be, cannot be spread by itself. Nor can it reveal its greatness without practitioners who embrace and spread it widely in society. The future of Nichiren Buddhism is, therefore, determined by its practitioners.

In other words, no matter which era, the people who practice and spread Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings are most essential. So it is important to strengthen our resolve and capacity for the widespread of Buddhism and at the same time, to help others develop themselves into able successors in our community of faith.

Because the Buddhist teaching is important in bringing peace and happiness, the people who uphold and spread it become worthy of respect. This is precisely why T’ien-t’ai expounded that it is erroneous to esteem the Mystic Law while despising its practitioners. He taught that if one finds the Law worthy of respect, one must also respect those who embrace the Law.

As Nichiren Daishonin wrote, “if the Law that one embraces is supreme, then the person who embraces it, must accordingly be foremost among all others”, those who uphold and spread the Mystic Law are worthy of utmost respect, regardless of their social status or secular circumstances.

Because it is the people who spread Buddhism, cherishing each person dedicated to the spread of Buddhism amounts to valuing Buddhism itself. Conversely, despising or slandering the people who uphold Buddhism is equivalent to despising or slandering Buddhism.

In this sense, it is absolutely vital to cherish and encourage one another as fellow members who are practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Protecting and encouraging one person leads to the advancement of all.

Only with unity and solidarity forged through mutual respect and encouragement can the movement of kosen-rufu be advanced. SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “Cherishing every person – this is the tradition of the Soka Gakkai spirit passed down through generations. Extending ourselves to those who are suffering and encouraging them wholeheartedly through dialogue – we must never forget this tradition. There can be no genuine Buddhist practice without wholeheartedly encouraging each person, without taking action for the sake of each person.”

Let us extend mutual respect and encouragement to our fellow members as we continue to advance kosen-rufu with courage and fervour.