The Lineage Chart of the Authentic Teaching of the Lotus Sutra

The list of names that appears at the bottom of the Great Mandala provides a kind of lineage chart of the authentic teaching of the Lotus Sutra according to Nichiren. This lineage comprises the historical transmission of the Lotus Sutra that began with the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. Nichiren refers to this in the Spiritual Contemplation of the Focus of Devotion:

“… I should say that during the period spanning the time the Buddha was still alive and some 1,800 years after His death, there appeared only three throughout the three lands of India, China, and Japan who perceived the ultimate truth, that is, the Lotus Sutra. They are Shakyamuni Buddha of India, Grand Master T’ien-t’ai of China, and Grand Master Dengyo of Japan, who are the three sages of Buddhism.”

If Nichiren Shonin is included in this number, these teachers are known collectively as the “four masters in three lands,” who comprise the outer or historical transmission. This is distinguished from the inner or spiritual transmission from the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha to Superior Practice Bodhisattva who appeared in the Latter Age of the Dharma as Nichiren Shonin.

Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon