Regarding the Attainment of Buddhahood by Persons of the Two Vehicles

Regarding the Attainment of Buddhahood by Persons of the Two Vehicles


The date and recipient of this writing are unknown, though it is thought to belong to Nichiren Daishonin’s relatively early teaching life.

Examining the subject of Buddhahood for persons of the two vehicles from various perspectives, this work makes clear that the teachings the Buddha expounded prior to the Lotus Sutra cannot enable persons of the two vehiclesvoice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, to attain Buddhahood, and that only the Lotus Sutra does so.

First, the Daishonin cites passages from the Lotus Sutra, the last of which is found in the following longer passage: “So when these living beings see me for the first time and listen to my preaching, they all immediately believe and accept it, entering into the wisdom of the Thus Come One, with the exception of those who earlier practiced and studied the lesser vehicle. And now I will make it possible for these persons to listen to this sutra and enter the wisdom of the Buddha.” In the above passage, the phrase “those who earlier practiced and studied the lesser vehicle” refers to persons of the two vehicles, and the sutra says that it alone can lead them to attain Buddhahood.

Though the Flower Garland Sutra says, “The mind, the Buddha, and all living beings—these three are without distinction,” the Daishonin explains that this does not represent the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds because the sutra denies the attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles. The Daishonin shows that the perfect teaching of the sutras preached before the Lotus does not lead to the attainment of Buddhahood because it is mixed with others of the four teachings of doctrine.

He says that because T’ien-t’ai based his judgment on the “Belief and Understanding” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, he was able to distinguish the differences between the perfect teaching the Buddha preached in conjunction with other teachings and the same perfect teaching Ānanda wrote down separately in his compilation after the Buddha’s death. By this the Daishonin is referring to the doctrinal classification of the five periods and eight teachings that T’ien-t’ai established using, among others, the above chapter and the concept of the five flavors of the Nirvana Sutra. This classification makes clear, for example, that the perfect teaching of the Flower Garland Sutra is mixed with the specific teaching.

The Daishonin states that only when one understands the Lotus Sutra can one grasp the true meaning of the other sutras because the Lotus Sutra explains the reasons why they were preached.

Citing Miao-lo, the Daishonin says that one cannot understand the true meaning of the above-quoted passage from the Flower Garland Sutra concerning the mind, Buddha, and living beings, without a knowledge of T’ien-t’ai’s doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of lifeCh’eng-kuan, the patriarch of the Flower Garland school, read T’ien-t’ai’s concept of “inherent evil” into that passage. It explains how the Buddha appears in the world, manifesting “the evil” of the nine worlds.

The Daishonin cites The Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra to show the two purposes of the Lotus Sutra, namely, to open the provisional teachings and reveal the true teaching, and to open the transient status and reveal the true identity. These are doctrines unique to the Lotus Sutra. And he also cites The Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra,” which reads, “What the Lotus Sutra has to say about Buddha wisdom is a restatement of what is found in the earlier sutras. But what the Lotus Sutra does by way of opening up and merging the other teachings with its own teachings is something found only in the Lotus and not in the earlier sutras.”

The Daishonin says that the two types of myō, the comparative myō and the absolute myō, are needed in order to attain the wonderful state of Buddhahood. Therefore, with only the perfect teaching of the earlier sutras and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, which lack the absolute myō, living beings are unable to attain Buddhahood.

Then he cites On “The Profound Meaning,” which says, “The wonderful is changed into the rough,” meaning that the perfect teaching set forth in the Flower Garland Sutra is changed and becomes the specific teaching.

Next, the Daishonin, citing On “The Profound Meaning,” discusses the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice described in the Flower Garland Sutra. But the explanation breaks off midway; apparently, the last part of this writing has been lost.



Chapter1(Discuss whether or not there is a way to attain of buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles)

AMONG the passages of scripture that pertain to the attainment of the way through the teachings set forth in the sutras preached prior to the Lotus Sutra, we find the following. In the Lotus SutraShāriputra states, “[In the past when I heard a Law of this kind from the Buddha and] saw how the bodhisattvas received prophecies that in time they would attain Buddhahood.”1 And elsewhere in the sutra the Buddha states, “So when these living beings see me for the first time [and listen to my preaching, they all immediately believe and accept it, entering into the wisdom of the Thus Come One].”2

From these passages it seems apparent that through the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings it is possible for bodhisattvas to attain the first stage of development, or the first stage of security of bodhisattva practice.

But immediately following the passage quoted above, “I saw how the bodhisattvas received prophecies . . . ,” Shāriputra says, “I and the others felt that we had no part in the affair.”3 And immediately following the passage that reads, “So when these living beings see me . . . ,” the Buddha adds, “with the exception of those who earlier practiced and studied the lesser vehicle.”4

From these latter passages it becomes apparent that persons of the two vehiclesvoice-hearers and cause-awakened ones—cannot attain Buddhahood through the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings.



1. Lotus Sutra, chap. 3.

2. Ibid., chap. 15.

3. Ibid., chap. 3.

4. Ibid., chap. 15.

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