The Latter Day of the Law - (Mappo)
In the Yakuo (23rd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra there is a sentence which reads, "In the
last five hundred years, after my extinction, proclaim and spread [this Law of
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo] abroad in the [the world of men], lest it be lost and Mara the
Evil [One], his [agents], gods, dragons, [the attendants of the Four Heavenly Kings],
[demons] and others gain their opportunity." What this means is, since the guardians of
heaven, bodhisattvas and others who were present during the lifetime of the Buddha are
no longer responsible for the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day, do not ask them for aid. It is
the living beings of the Latter Day who must guard this Law of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo
in their place.
The last five hundred year period mentioned in this phrase refers to the age of Mappo,
the Latter Day of the Law. As a rule, all Buddhists had been taught the Buddha's
teaching that there are three time periods after the Buddha's decease:
The Former Day of the Law (the righteous law) = 1000 years
The Middle Day of the Law (the imitative law) = 1000 years
The Latter Day of the Law (the last law) = All the years thereafter
There have been various theories advanced as to the year of Shakyamuni Buddha's
death. Nichiren Daishonin trusted and followed the division of the period which T'ien-t'ai
and Dengyo the Great espoused (T'ien-t'ai founded the T'ien-t'ai sect in China based on
the Lotus Sutra; Dengyo the Great transmitted the Lotus Sutra to Japan.) According to
these sources Shakyamuni Buddha's date of birth is April 8, 1029 B.C., and his death,
February 15, 949 B.C. The period of the Former Day of the Law ranges from 949 B.C.
to 51 A.D.; the Middle Day of the Law ranges from 51 A.D. to 1052 A.D.; and the
Latter Day of the Law begins in 1052 A.D. Thus the Daishonin's year of birth, 1222
A.D., falls upon the 170th year after the beginning of the Latter Day.
|Elements of the Three Time Periods
|There are three important elements in the Buddhist scriptures:
teaching, practice and proof.
Teaching = doctrine; texts
Practice = practicing in accordance with the doctrine; faith;
way of life
Proof = the consequence of putting doctrine into practice;
Teaching, practice and proof are the fundamental elements of
The three elements as viewed through he three time periods looks as follows:
1. During the Former Day of the Law - the period of the righteous law, which was the first
1,000 year period after Shakyamuni Buddha's decease - all three elements of teaching,
practice and proof of his Buddhism existed.
2. During the Middle Day of the Law - the period of the imitative law, from 1,001 to 1,999
years after the Buddha's death, teaching and practice existed, but no longer any proof or
enlightenment. That is why it is called an imitation of the law.
3. During the Latter Day of the Law, the period of the last law which began 2,001 years
after the Buddha's death, the teaching alone remains as a symbol, but neither practice nor
proof or enlightenment exist.
What this demonstrates is that as time went by we humans departed from the truth, our
minds deteriorated and we came to believe something other than what is true.
The Buddha awakened to the true Law as a result of his practice. At the point of his
awakening he was just a human being. As time elapsed, he came to be regarded as
something greater and greater. From his original status as an ordinary human being, his
stature has evolved into what it is today, a charismatic figure - a being above the clouds,
beyond our reach. The same is true of God and Christ, and of Dainichi Buddha and Amida
Buddha preached about in Buddhism.
However, the true Law is the teaching of "Enlightenment for all living things." This is the
purpose and reason for the Buddha's appearance in the world. This is what he tried to
transmit in the scriptures; it is the reason we do Gongyo and chant Daimoku. All of this is
for the sake of "Enlightenment for all living things." Contrary to what some believe, it is not
the purpose of the true Law to realize happiness by fulfilling our hopes and desires.
"All living things" referred to here means all life and phenomena in this world. This includes
not only human beings, but also light, air, water, soil, animals, insects, plants, etc. As
human beings cannot live on their own, you cannot achieve salvation by preaching a
salvation for humans beings alone. Without the salvation of all life and phenomena there
cannot be salvation for human beings. A humankind centered religion cannot provide a true
teaching, nor can it provide salvation. Christianity and many other religions consider human
beings to be the center of everything. This is wrong. It is only humans who believe that
human beings are the center of everything.
It was the Buddha's intent to show us that it is meaningless to worship the Buddha for
one's salvation in the Latter Day. He wanted us to reject any charismatic nature we
perceived in him and other bodhisattvas; and he wanted us to clearly see the true intent and
essence of the Buddha's teachings: that is, the true Law that is equal and common to all
living things. Because of the true Law Buddha exists. Return to that which is Law-centered
rather than Buddha-centered. The Law is neither Buddha's possession, nor his creation.
Return to the original Law as it is.
In the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni Buddha transmitted and entrusted the true Law to
Bodhisattva Jogyo as a bodhisattva for the Latter Day. His hope was that the people of this
age would attain enlightenment by following and revering, as teacher and guide, the
bodhisattva who conducted his life exactly as the Lotus Sutra teaches.
"Rely upon the true Law; do not rely upon persons," this is the basis of Buddhism. Here
the Buddha declares his limitations and asserts that he will not be needed in the age of
Although Shakyamuni Buddha preached the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, he did not
practice or conduct himself accordingly. He was not a person who practiced the Lotus
Sutra. He preached the doctrine but could not prove it by means of practice and
Based on the calculated length of each time period, the Latter Day of the Law has arrived.
People were afraid of this age, expecting something terrible to happen. Despite their fears,
the world has not been annihilated, neither has the political power or world system been
toppled. Consequently, those people who believe in Buddhism came to think that nothing
would change in the Latter Day, so they continue to worship Buddha. What people have
not realized or have ignored is the conversion to a new system of thought in the spiritual
world, which is precisely what Buddha wanted to convey to us. People have forgotten and
repudiated the meaning of the Latter Day of the Law.
All the founders of the various Buddhist sects in existence during the time of Nichiren
Daishonin were searching for the teaching suitable for the Latter Day - the age when
Shakyamuni Buddha would be renounced. Their efforts lead to the formation of many new
religions including Zen, Jodo, Shingon, Jodo-Shin, and so on. Originally they all insisted
that only their teaching could replace the Buddha's teachings in the Latter Day. But now
they have all taken the view that it does not matter which religion to believe since nothing
unusual has taken place in the age of the Latter Day. Worshipping everything has become
acceptable, regardless of the differences in teaching, objective, and the form of
enlightenment of each sect. It is Nichiren Daishonin's teaching alone that has completely
heeded the true significance of the Latter Day of the Law.
|Nichiren Daishonin's Position
|Nichiren Daishonin became a priest at Seicho-ji temple on Mount Kiyosumi. This temple
followed the combined teachings of the Shingon and T'ien-t'ai sects. It was to achieve the
following four objectives that the Daishonin became a priest:
1. To find the cause for the world's disorder.
2. To learn the teaching which surpasses all other religions in the world.
3. To achieve an enlightenment that corresponds to the correct teaching.
4. To transmit the correct teaching to his parents, his sovereign and other officials, and his
relatives; to repay his debt of gratitude to them; and to enable them to achieve an
In order to realize his four objectives Nichiren Daishonin left the Kiyosumi temple and
embarked on a 16-yearlong journey of study and practice. He spent the majority of this
time practicing and studying at Enryaku-ji temple on Mt. Hiei, the center of the T'ien-t'ai
sect where the religion based on the Lotus Sutra got its start in Japan. By the time the
Daishonin had arrived at Mt. Hiei the T'ien-t'ai sect had become a mixture of the Shingon,
Zen, Nembutsu sects of Buddhism, and Shintoism, the national ritualistic belief and way of
life. The priests would chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo during the morning prayers and
Namu-Amidabutsu (devotion to Amida Buddha)during evening prayers. There no longer
existed a spirit of T'ien-t'ai from China, the essence of whose teaching is the Lotus Sutra,
nor a spirit of Dengyo the Great who transmitted and propagated T'ien-t'ai's pure sect in
Japan. The same is true with today's T'ien-t'ai sect. Nevertheless, they claim that the
T'ien-t'ai sect is superior to all other sects, since all the sects of Buddhism in Japan
originated from it. Yet they do not understand that all the founders of the various other
Buddhisms left Mt. Hiei to start their own sects when after practicing the teachings of the
T'ien-t'ai sect they found no salvation, and finally rejected the teaching of the T'ien-t'ai
After studying and practicing the teachings of many religions Nichiren Daishonin came to
the conclusion that the Lotus Sutra was the teaching that was superior to any other
Buddhist scripture. It is the Law of "Enlightenment of all living things." Elucidated in the
following sutra passages is the necessity for us to keep our faith pure, believing in the Lotus
Sutra without mixing it with other teachings as the T'ien-t'ai sect had done:
In the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings (the preface to the Lotus Sutra, or the first volume
of the three-fold Lotus Sutra) we read, "In forty years and more I have not yet revealed the
In the Hoben-pon (2nd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra we read, "Honestly discard the
provisional teachings and only proclaim the supreme Way [this Lotus Sutra]."
And the Hiyu-bon (3rd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads, "Do not accept or believe any
sutra other than the Lotus Sutra."
Thus by commingling it teachings with other teachings the T'ien-t'ai sect has, as well as
many other religions, deteriorated and become adverse to the supreme doctrine.
The Lotus Sutra states that those who believe, practice and propagate this sutra will never
fail to encounter life-threatening dangers. Despite this, once Nichiren Daishonin met with
the Lotus Sutra he never begrudged his life to propagate it. The very act of presenting his
treatise,"Rissho-ankoku-ron," to the Kamakura government was an engagement in the
refutation of mistaken views for it admonishes, "If you care anything about your own
security you should pray for peace and tranquility throughout the nation. . . .Reform your
beliefs and embrace the true and good doctrine of the Lotus Sutra." Because of this
document and his subsequent propagation of Buddhism Nichiren Daishonin suffered three
major persecutions at the hands of the Kamakura government: exile to Izu Peninsula;
persecution at Tatsunokuchi beach which nearly resulted in his beheading; and exile to the
remote island of Sado. Although the government is obligated to observe the laws of the
land, the Kamakura government incriminated Nichiren Daishonin without so much as an
investigation or a trial, and tired, at least on one occasion, to assassinate him. As an
expression of his hallowed commitment to propagate the Law he referred to himself in his
writings as, "Nichiren, the votary of the Lotus Sutra."
Down the center of the Gohonzon, the scroll that is object of worship in this faith, reads,
Namu-Myoho-renge-kyo Nichiren Zaigoban. This indicates that we revere Nichiren
Daishonin as the true bodhisattva for the Latter Day of the Law. He is the one who
practiced the Lotus Sutra; he is the one who considered the most important thing for us
was to live truthfully with faith in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. His life is the paradigm
for attaining enlightenment through faith and practice. Zaigoban means that his spirit is still
alive and viable within our resolve to keep this faith. He continues to preach and show us
this Law of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore, based on the concept of a law-centered
faith rather than a charismatic-centered faith, such as those beliefs based on Shakyamuni
Buddha, god or others, we revere Nichiren Daishonin as the true bodhisattva for the Latter
Day. He is the one who transmitted the true Law; his life is a living example of living
according to the Lotus Sutra. Notwithstanding, it must be said, he is not a charismatic.
|Why the Lotus Sutra is Superior
The sutra preaches the following:
* All living things are equal.
* All living things ( all existence, not just human
a life equal to that of the Buddha's life.
* Everyone can attain enlightenment by believing in
the Lotus Sutra, including evil persons, women, and
those whose lives manifest the worlds of Learning and
Realization, as well as the world of Animality.
According to the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra, a woman could not attain
enlightenment unless she was born as a man; evil men could only attain enlightenment by
eradicating the evil from their minds entirely. Though it might sound possible in theory, in
truth we human beings are emotional animals and therefore cannot always control our
own minds and personalities. If women are sinful, how is it possible that men, who are
born of women, are clean? Every person is first a human being before the distinction of
man or woman. No matter how educated we might be, how much we might value virtue,
or how much we might improve our character, we cannot transcend the ten worlds
inherent in our lives. The Ten Worlds being hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility,
rapture, learning, realization, bodhisattva (aspiration for enlightenment), and Buddhahood
(enlightenment). Not even if we practiced ardently could we ever eliminate the worlds of
hell, hunger, animality and anger from our lives.
In accordance with the teachings of the Lotus Sutra Nichiren Daishonin teaches us to
awaken to the root of our life which, though still consisting of an evil and confused mind,
is nothing other than the mind of Myoho-renge-kyo, the equivalent of the Buddha's mind.
Never fail to remember this whenever you forget it. Believe and transmit it to others.
Anyone who strives to do so can attain enlightenment. This is true peace of mind and
It is not for us to ask for aid from God or Buddha. It is for us to awaken to the realization
that we can save ourselves with the life of the Buddha, Myoho-renge-kyo,within us.
|Christianity and varioius other religions encourage one to improve one's character, and to
volunteer one's services for others. They preach love without reward. This, however, is
not actually the case when believers are always made conscious of the eyes of God upon
them. Believers of these faiths are induced to lead a moral life and to try to improve their
character so that they will be recognized by God, and deserve to live in heaven as their
Though it is important to value ethics and to improve character by means of religious
belief, there are so many people who could never accomplish this due to the extenuating
circumstances of their lives, such as their childhood experiences, upbringing, background,
other sundry incidents, disease, and uncontrollable character traits. If those who are
branded sinners are disqualifies from being saved, then none of us can be saved since we
all make mistakes. We cannot undo or be absolved of our past wrongdoings, either. The
true teaching has to preach that it is possible for all life and phenomena to attain
enlightenment. Even for one whose character has been destroyed, or for one who has
committed crimes, they too can believe that everyone, including themselves, possess the
same life as the Buddha, and can awaken to his or her own preciousness and importance.
We must strive to approach the life of Myoho-renge-kyo repeatedly whenever we become
removed from it. Attain enlightenment by living according to the life of Myoho-renge-kyo
as much as possible. This is the religion of the true teaching. If a religion requires us to
possess a fine mind in order to be saved, there will be no permanent salvation or healing
in the world. It is not for us to ask for aid from God or Buddha, but to awaken to the
realization that we can save ourselves with the life of the Buddha, Myoho-renge-kyo,
existing within our own life. This is the way a true religion should be.
Some may think there is no difference between this religion and Zen Buddhism since Zen
teaches that as a result of practicing and sitting in meditation one will awaken to the
realization that one is Buddha. In Zen it is said that some people have become awakened
in one manner while others, by employing another manner or technique, have reached an
awakening. A teaching such as Zen Buddhism, which professes various manners in which
to reach enlightenment, is a wrong teaching. By contrast, the Lotus Sutra teaches that
there is one correct way for everyone to reach enlightenment. That is, with faith and
practice of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo everyone can awaken to the life of Myoho-renge-kyo
within. In Zen Buddhism it is thought that once awakened one becomes a living god or
bodhisattva beyond delusion. This belief is also wrong. A living god or bodhisattva beyond
delusion can never exist, and there is no need for such an existence.
Any human being can become spiritually awakened, and then deluded again. We alternate
between awakening and delusion. We neither remain awakened like an inert stone, nor
deluded like an inert stone. Those who claim to be awakened are either pretending or
deceiving themselves. It is convenient to pretend to have become a living god or
bodhisattva in order to maintain a religious organization. Thus all the religions of the world
never fail to end up with a charismatic leader eventually. The Lotus Sutra, on the other
hand, rejects the charisma of the Buddha, even though he was the one who preached the
teaching. The Lotus Sutra is an epoch-making doctrine which appeals to us to return to
the Law, and specifies that the mind of all Buddhas is Myoho-renge-kyo.
Many people fancy themselves as believers and practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. And yet,
in the Soka Gakkai the charismatic leader, Daisaku Ikeda is treated as a living bodhisattva;
whereas the Taisekiji priesthood openly claims that Nikken Abe is, as are past high
priests, the Nichiren Daishonin of the time. Thus even when we think we are practicing
the Lotus Sutra, it can become very warped when confused.
What did the Buddha believe and practice to become enlightened? It was nothing other
than the Law of Myoho-renge-kyo. The minds of all the bodhisattvas in Japan including
Dainichi Buddha of the Shingon sect and Amida Buddha of the Jodo sect are all derived
from the law of Myoho-renge-kyo. So is their practice. What did Jesus believe and
practice to become Christ? It was the Law that both Buddha and God believed and
practiced. Likewise, all living things should pursue, believe and practice this Law.
Worshipping Buddha or God will never make it possible to reach their state of mind. And
to teach that one is a servant of God in heaven is proof of not being a true religion.
Without a teaching that we ourselves can become Buddha or God where can we find
salvation? The Buddha depicted in the Lotus Sutra does not claim that the created the
world. That is because the true Law is nobody's possession and everyone's at the same
time. Buddha revealed to us the Law which is the basic core of all living things; he
showed us with is life an example of how people can fuse the Law and their way of living.
Initially, all bodhisattvas were ordinary people like ourselves who believed and practiced.
Therefore the belief that some entity created the world is both false and vainglorious.
|The Law came First; Buddha came Later
All living things live according to the laws of Nature. But since
human beings are the only life form that gets lost by resisting
Nature, the existence of Buddha is indispensable to the human
world. There is no need to preach the correct way to live to
animals and plants. If God had created the law, it means he
would have lived in a void as the sole, superhuman entity
before the human world began. There is a legend in Japan that
the Japanese islands were created by drops from the hands of
two gods, Izanagi-no-mikoto and Isanami-no-mikoto, when
they scooped up some water from the ocean. It seems that
God in any country created everything. The question is, who
created the Gods?
In the early years of human existence people killed and robbed
each other and lived like animals according to their basic urges.
Buddha came along and preached that living in this way was
not the purpose of human life, human life bore much greater
importance. The Law transmitted by the Buddha revealed the
importance of life as being to support each other's life, rather
than to kill each other. The true purpose in being born as a
human being is to believe in and chant the Law of
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. Thi is what Buddha transmitted, and
this was his will. The ultimate purpose of the Buddha's advent
was to bring about the "Enlightenment of all living things." This
enlightenment is not realized at death.It is an enlightenment
achieved during our lifetime by exerting ourselves to reach an
awakening to the Buddha's life of Myoho-renge-kyo within our
*A charismatic who pretends to be a living god or bodhisattva is not necessary in this
|*A teaching based on a charismatic personality does not save "all living things."
*The objective in life is not to become a person of moral character and ethics by
removing the evil and delusion from one's mind and thereby achieve an absolute, pure
mind. Enlightenment can be attained by living according to the Law of
Myoho-renge-kyo without eliminating evil and delusion from one's mind.
*Intrinsically, since the beginningless past, all living things are equal and possess the
*There is no salvation in a religion where an individual can, by believing in it, only be a
follower, a disciple or a servant. The true teaching will result in salvation by becoming
Buddha or God through belief.
*The Buddha did not create the law, he transmitted it. The claim that God created the
world is false!
|THE TRUE RELIGION
FOR OUR TIME
By Reverend Raido Hirota
|Translated and edited by Udumbara Foundation staff.
|This is NOT an official site of
the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai