Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
Having last month considered Śākyamuni’s initial reluctance to preach the Dharma, we now hear to suggestions of the gods and the past Buddhas.
On that occasion King Brahman,
The four heavenly world-guardian kings,
Great-Freedom God, and other gods [of each world],
And thousands of millions of their attendants
Joined their hands together [towards me] respectfully,
Bowed to me,
And asked me to turn the wheel of the Dharma.
“If I extol only the Buddha-Vehicle,
The living beings [of the six regions] will not believe it
Because they are too much enmeshed in sufferings to think of it.
If they do not believe but violate the Dharma,
They will fall into the three evil regions.
I would rather enter into Nirvana quickly
Than expound the Dharma to them.”
But, thinking of the past Buddhas who employed expedients,
I changed my mind and thought:
“I will expound the Dharma which l attained
By dividing it into the Three Vehicles.”
The Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters
Appeared before me when I had thought this.
They consoled me with their brahma voices:
“Good, Śākyamuni, Highest Leading Teacher!
You attained the unsurpassed Dharma.
You have decided to expound it with expedients
After the examples of the past Buddha
We also expound the Three Vehicles
To the Living beings
Although we attained
The most wonderful and excellent Dharma.
Men of little wisdom wish to hear
The teachings of the Lesser Vehicle.
They do not believe that they will become Buddhas.
Therefore, we show them
Various fruits of enlightenment.
Although we expound the Three Vehicles,
Our purpose is to teach only Bodhisattvas.”
I want to digress here after this mention of “men of little wisdom” who don’t believe they can become Buddhas. This Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma is the perfect vehicle to teach all living beings, especially in this Latter Age.
In Nichiren’s “Treatise on Protecting the Nation” he writes:
Miao-lé declared, “You may recite the Lotus Sutra inattentively; you don’t have to meditate or concentrate; with your whole heart pray to characters of the Lotus Sutra all the time whether sitting, standing or walking.”
The aim of this interpretation is solely to save the ignorant in the Latter Age. The “inattentive mind” meaning the mind of an ordinary person engaged in daily routines is contrasted to the “concentrated mind.” “Reciting the Lotus Sutra” means to recite either the whole eight fascicles or just one fascicle, one character, one phrase, one verse or the daimoku; it means also to rejoice upon hearing the Lotus Sutra even for a moment or the joy of the fiftieth person who hears the sutra transmitted from one person to the next. “Whether sitting, standing or walking” means regardless of what you are doing in daily life. “Whole heart” means neither spiritual concentration nor the rational faculty of even beginning practicers can have great merit; they insisted that the Lotus Sutra can be practiced only by those with advanced training, slighting those with little training. Thus, the 18th chapter shows the great merit of beginning practicers, revealing the excellent merit of this sutra.”