Nichiren compared his own position to that of Superb-Action Bodhisattva. After he was sent into exile on the Island of Sado, Nichiren began to make this comparison with increasing frequency. He stated it explicitly in his writing, Kanjin Honzon Sho (“A Treatise Revealing the Spiritual Contemplation of the Most-Venerable-One”). This essay is considered the most important of his many writings. Although its logical arguments resist condensation into a few words, here is a brief summary of what he said.
According to the teachings of Great Master Chih-i, the practical side of the Lotus Sutra is the doctrine of “one thought is the three thousand worlds” (ichinen-sanzen). However, if this doctrine is left in its original form, it is not a suitable practice for unenlightened people in this Age of Degeneration. If the theory of “one thought is the three thousand worlds” is followed through to its logical conclusion, it will be seen that the perfect Buddha resides in the hearts of unenlightened people. Then its realistic practice is clear. The effect attained by the Buddha’s practice and all the virtues of his enlightenment are summed up and put into the five [Chinese] letters of the Sacred Title, MYO-HO-REN-GE-KYO (“The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law”). Sakyamuni transmitted it to everyone, the enlightened and the unenlightened, so that they might uphold and practice this Sacred Title (Daimoku).
According to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, our World of Endurance is itself the eternal and everlasting Pure Land and this ever-existing and unchanging world of the Buddha exists in our own minds. This is taught in the Lotus Sutra especially in the eight chapters, from Chapter Fifteen, the “Appearance of Bodhisattvas from Underground,” to Chapter Twenty-two, “Transmission.” It says in these eight chapters that Sakyamuni, who was seated in the Stupa of Treasures, summoned from beneath the earth countless Great Bodhisattvas headed by Superb-Action Bodhisattva. He transmitted to them the five letters of MYO-HO-REN-GE-KYO, which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra, and assigned them to disseminate it. The meaning of this decisive event is of fundamental significance. The scene of this transmission is the Most-Venerable-One (Honzon) and everyone should recognize it as such. All living beings should chant the Sacred Title of NAMU-MYO-HO-REN-GE-KYO and direct their veneration toward what is depicted here.
This Most-Venerable-One was revealed only in the Age of Degeneration. The Bodhisattvas from Underground did not appear during the Ages of Right Teaching and Counterfeit Teaching. They were assigned to appear here in our country, now in this Age of Degeneration. The Four Great Bodhisattvas, Superb-Action, Limitless-Action, Pure-Action, and Steadily-Established-Action, are the representatives of the Bodhisattvas who welled up from beneath the earth. They were told to come now, during the Age of Degeneration, disseminate the Sacred Title, and lead unenlightened living beings to Buddhahood.
Thus Nichiren maintains that the Bodhisattvas from Underground and their leaders’ the Four Great Bodhisattvas, will appear in Japan during the Age of Degeneration. He discusses this in his essay, Shoho Sho, “The Reality of All Things,” saying that Bodhisattva Superb-Action, who was instructecl by Sakyamuni to disseminate the Sutra in the future, has already come in the person of Nichiren himself:
I, Nichiren, a man born in the Age of Degeneration, have nearly achieved the task of pioneering the propagation of the Wonderful Law, the task assigned to the Bodhisattva SuperbAction. . . It is indeed too high an honor for me, a common mortal … I, Nichiren, am the one who takes the lead of the Bodhisattvas from Underground. Then may I not be one of them? If I am one of them, why may not all my disciples and followers be their kinsmen? If you are one in faith with Nichiren, you too are one of the Bodhisattvas from Underground.
Introduction to the Lotus Sutra