Thesis on Becoming a Buddha
The seventh year of Kenchō (1255), at 34 years of age
If those who are detained, in the beginningless chain of living and dying, should this time firmly decide to substantiate their supreme enlightenment, then they ought to contemplate the inherently infinite existence of the intrinsic Utterness in the lives of sentient beings. The intrinsic Utterness in the lives of sentient beings is Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma. Therefore, reverently reciting Myōhō Renge Kyō is to contemplate the inherently infinite existence of the intrinsic Utterness in the lives of sentient beings.
Because this textual line of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is entirely correct, it is the king of sutras, whose words and ideograms are not separate from the real aspect; and the real aspect is not separate from the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma). However, what this comes down to is that to expound and reveal the meaning of the Dharma realm, as the oneness of mind, is to say that it is the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma). Therefore, this sutra is said to be the wisdom and discernment of all the Buddhas.
The significance of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas and their three thousand existential spaces of the dharma realm is the oneness of mind, its subjectivity, its dependent environments, its materiality and mind, its insentient plants and trees, without ignoring its empty space, the flash of time in the terrain of where the one instant occurs, or even one particle of its dust – all of these are stored away in a single instant of mental activity. What this one instant of mind means is that it is the whole content of the Dharma realm. This is referred to as all of the dharmas. To be knowingly aware of this principle is to have to admit that the dharma realm is the oneness of mind.
Nevertheless, even though you may hold to reciting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, if you think that the Dharma is somewhere outside your mind, then it is in no way the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma), but some inferior teaching. Such inferior teachings are not the present sutra.
If it were not for this sutra, then it would be an expedient means, or something from the provisional gateway, and it could not be the direct path for becoming a Buddha. By not being the direct path, then it will be an attempt to become a Buddha through practising for numerous lifetimes, over countless kalpas, and it would be impossible to become a Buddha in a single lifetime.
You must give rise to a deep mind of faith to understand that when we recite and read Myōhō Renge Kyō, which is the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma, it refers to the one instant of thought containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen) that make up our lives. They too are Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma.
You must under no circumstance ever imagine that the repository of the eighty-four thousand dharmas of a lifetime of sage-like teaching, as well as all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future of the ten directions, exist anywhere else, other than in your own mind. Although you may well have studied the Buddha teaching, if you do not contemplate the nature of your own mind, you will never get entirely away from the cycles of living and dying.
If you do search for a path outside of your own mind and then do ten thousand austerities and ten thousand good deeds, they will all be as useless as a poor man who counts his neighbour’s wealth day and night, without gleaning from it a share as small as half a brass coin. Hence, among the explanations with regard to this, in the writings of Tendai (T’ien T’ai), we have, “If you do not contemplate your own mind, you will never eradicate the layers of karmic entanglements in your life.”
Through not contemplating our own minds, we condemn ourselves to a lifetime of countless, bitter austerities. Moreover, even though the people who behave in such a way have studied the Buddha Dharma, they bring shame upon it, by becoming just like those of other cults. With regard to this, there is a comment in the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly (Maka Shikan) that says, “Although they study the Buddha teaching, their views become the same as those of the heretics.”
Withal, in the meantime you must build a mind of faith, by reciting the name of the original Buddha, reading the sutra, spreading flowers, and offering pinches of powdered sandalwood over burning incense, all of which in the oneness of our minds become the meritorious virtues of good roots. In the sutra concerning Yuimakitsu, it makes it very clear that, should one look for the freedom and release of all the Buddhas, from the sufferings of living and dying, then it is to be found embedded in the minds and practices of sentient beings. This is because sentient beings are not separate from the enlightenment of which they are capable of attaining, as those who suffer in the cycles of living and dying are not separate from nirvana of which they are capable of reaching.
Again, if sentient beings befoul their minds, their dependent terrain is also befouled. Likewise, if they purify their minds, then also their dependent terrains become purified. Still, at the same time, the terrain that is befouled or the one that is purified are not two places. They are seen as such, due to the good and evil in our minds.
So it is the same with whom we refer to as sentient beings and those whom we refer to as Buddhas. When a person is bewildered, he is spoken of as being a sentient being. But, on his enlightenment (satori), he is then called a Buddha.
For instance, a tarnished metal mirror, when polished up, will shine like a jewel. When the mind is bewildered, even for one instant, by its fundamental unenlightenment, it immediately becomes like a mirror that has been neglected. But, once it is polished, it will attain the brilliance of the true suchness of the Dharma nature. You must give rise to a deep mind of faith, in order to polish this mirror mornings and evenings. How should you polish it then? This is done just by reverently reciting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which is what this polishing is called.
Now then, what does Utterness (myō) really mean? Utterness is the part of our one instant of thought that can neither be thought out nor be expressed [since it is utterly all-embracing]. It is what the mind cannot ponder over nor put into words. However, as soon as you diligently look for it in your mind, you find that it has neither a colour nor a shape to show that it exists. Again, if you say it is not there, then all sorts of things come into your mind to show that it is. You cannot say that it does not exist; neither can you say that it does. The two words for existence or nonexistence do not cover it; nor can it be explained by the meanings of these two words either. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet it is omnipresent in both. By being the embodiment of Utterness of the sole reality of the middle way, it becomes imponderably inexpressible and goes by the name of Utterness (myō).
By giving such implications to the word Utterness, it is then referred to as dharmas [as its manifestation] (myōhō). [Nam means to devote our lives to and found them on.] This gateway to the Dharma, with its revelation of the imponderably inexpressible, alludes to the phenomenal dharmas assuming the role of the lotus flower, which is the simultaneity of cause and effect (renge). When you realise that your own mind is Utterness, then in turn you realise that other minds are the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) also [kyō signifying the whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas]. This is called the sutra which is its own utter and intrinsically infinite path. It is the king of sutras, and the direct path to becoming a Buddha, since it explains that the actual fundamental substance, from which both good and evil arise, is the fundamental substance of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] itself.
If you hold a deep faith in the significance of this and recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, you will, without any doubt, become a Buddha in this lifetime. This is because in the text of the sutra it tells us that, “After my passing over to extinction, you must indeed hold to this sutra. Those people who do so shall decidedly, without any doubt whatsoever, be on the path of enlightenment.” On no account, must you have any doubts.
With awe and respect.
You must have a mind of faith and become a Buddha in this lifetime. Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō.
Nichiren [formal signature]
Wetlands in the Columbia Valley, British Columbia
Martin Bradley, The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishōnin, ISBN: 2-913122-19-1, 2005,
The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishōnin by Martin Bradley
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.