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A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering


When I asked him about what you told me the other day, I found it to
be exactly as you said. You should therefore strive in faith more than
ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus Sutra. Listen with the ears of
Shih K'uang and observe with the eyes of Li Lou. [1]
In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear
without fail. The greater the hardships befalling him the greater the
delight he feels, because of his strong faith. Doesn't a fire burn more
briskly when logs are added? All rivers run to the sea, but does its
fullness make the rivers flow backward? The currents of hardship pour
into the sea of the Lotus Sutra and rush against its votary. The river is
not rejected by the ocean; neither does the votary reject suffering.
Were it not for the flowing rivers there would be no sea. Likewise,
without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra. As
T'ien-t'ai stated, "All rivers flow to the sea, and logs make a fire roar."
[2]
You must realize that it is because of a deep karmic relationship from
the past that you can teach others even a sentence or phrase of the
Lotus Sutra. The sutra reads, "It is extremely difficult to save those who
are deaf to the True Law." [3] The "True Law" means the Lotus Sutra.
A passage from the Hosshi chapter reads, "If there is someone,
whether man or woman, who secretly teaches to one person even a
single phrase of the Lotus Sutra, let it be known that he is the envoy of
the Buddha." This means that anyone who teaches others even a
single phrase of the Lotus Sutra is clearly the Buddha's envoy, whether
he be priest or nun, lay man or woman. You are a lay believer and one
of those described in the sutra. One who hears even a sentence or
phrase of the Lotus Sutra and cherishes it deep in his heart may be
likened to a ship, which navigates the sea of suffering. The Great
Teacher Miao-lo stated, "Even a single phrase cherished deep in one's
heart will without fail help him reach the opposite shore. [4] To ponder
one phrase and practice it is to exercise navigation..." [5]
A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads, "...as though one had found a
ship to make the crossing." [6] This "ship" might be described as
follows: The Lord Buddha, a shipbuilder of infinitely profound wisdom,
gathered the lumber of the four tastes and eight teachings, planed it
by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut and assembled
the planks, using both right and wrong, [7] and completed the craft by
driving home the spikes of the one, supreme teaching. Thus he
launched the ship upon the sea of suffering. Unfurling the sails of the

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three thousand conditions on the mast of the Middle Way doctrine,
driven by the fair wind of "all phenomena reveal the true entity," [8]
the vessel surges ahead, carrying all believers who can enter
Buddhahood by their pure faith. Shakyamuni Buddha is the helmsman,
Taho Buddha mans the sails, and the four Bodhisattvas led by Jogyo
strain in unison at the creaking oars. This is the ship in "a ship to make
the crossing," the vessel of Myoho-renge-kyo. Those who board it are
the disciples and followers of Nichiren. Believe this wholeheartedly.
When you visit Shijo Kingo, please have an earnest talk with him. I will
write you again.
With my deep respect,

Nichiren
The twenty-eighth day of the fourth month

Footnotes:
1. Shih K'uang and Li Lou: Legendary figures in China famed,
respectively for their extraordinary hearing and vision.
2. Maka Shikan, vol. 5
3. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2
4. The opposite shore: It represents the shore of enlightenment or
nirvana, while this shore where we live represents that of illusion.
5. This quotation from the Hokke Mongu Ki is followed by the
sentence, "Only the ship of Myoho-renge-kyo enables one to
cross the sea of suffering." But a sentence to the same effect
appears at the beginning of the next page and, if translated
literally, it will interrupt the flow of meaning. This is why the
sentence is omitted here.
6. Lotus Sutra, chap. 23
7. Using both right and wrong: Both good and evil are eternally
inherent in life. Provisional sutras hold that wicked people cannot
attain enlightenment, but the Lotus Sutra reveals that no matter
how evil one's life, he simultaneously possesses the Buddha
nature.
8. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2