Exortation to hold firm. Lotus Sutra chapter 13 Vow of Bodhisattvas

All chapters of the Lotus Sutra and Threefold Lotus Sutra presents the most profound visionary experience of “religion.”

In this chapter, copied below, Bodhisattvas vow to spread the Sutra even at the cost of their lives and to face persecution in the most evil time period of this world of endurance (Saha World).

Exhortation to Hold Firm
At that time the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Medicine King and the BodhisattvaMahasattva Great Eloquence, with their retinue of twenty thousand bodhisattvas, all
in the presence of the Buddha, made this vow, saying: “Be pleased, World-honored
One, to be without anxiety! After the extinction of the Buddha we will keep, read, recite, and preach this sutra. In the evil age to come living beings will decrease in good qualities, while they will increase in utter arrogance [and] in covetousness of gain and honors, [and will] develop their evil qualities and be far removed from emancipation.
Though it may be difficult to teach and convert them, we, arousing our utmost
patience, will read and recite this sutra, keep, preach, and copy it, pay every kind of homage to it, and spare not our body and life.”
Thereupon the five hundred arhats in the assembly, whose future had been
predicted, addressed the Buddha, saying: “World-honored One! We also vow to publish abroad this sutra in other lands.” Again the eight thousand arhats, training and trained, whose future had been predicted, rising up from their seats and folding
their hands toward the Buddha, made this vow, saying: “World-honored One! We also will publish abroad this sutra in other lands. Wherefore? Because in this saha-world men abound in wickedness, cherish the utmost arrogance, [and] are of shallow virtue,
defiled with hatreds, crooked with suspicions, and insincere in mind.”
Then the sister of the Buddha’s mother, the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati, with six thousand bhikshunis, training and trained, rose up from their seats, with one mind folded their hands, [and] gazed up to the honored face without removing their eyes for
a moment. Then the World-honored One addressed the Gautami:1 “Why, with sad countenance, do you gaze at the Tathagata? Are you not thinking to say that I have not mentioned your name and predicted for you Perfect Enlightenment? Gautami! I have
already inclusively announced that [the future of] all shravakas is predicted. Now you, who desire to know your future destiny, shall, in the world to come, become a great teacher of the Law in the laws of the sixty-eight thousand kotis of buddhas, and these
six thousand bhikshunis, training and trained, will all become teachers of the Law.
Thus you will gradually become perfect in the bodhisattva-way and will become a buddha entitled Loveliness Tathagata, Worshipful, All Wise, Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct, Well Departed, Understander of the World, Peerless Leader, Controller, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha, World-honored One. Gautami! This Buddha Loveliness and the six thousand bodhisattvas will in turn be predicted to [attain] Perfect Enlightenment.”
Thereupon the mother of Rahula, the Bhikshuni Yashodhara, reflected thus The World-honored One in his predictions has left my name alone unmentioned."
[Then] the Buddha said to Yashodhara: “You, in the laws of the hundred thousand myriads of kotis of buddhas in the world to come, by your doing of bodhisattva-deeds shall become a great teacher of the Law, gradually become perfect in the Buddha-way,
and in the domain Good become a buddha entitled The Perfect Myriad-rayed Tathagata, Worshipful, All Wise, Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct, Well Departed, Understander of the World, Peerless Leader, Controller, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha, World-honored One. The lifetime of that buddha will be innumerable
asamkhyeya kalpas.”

Then the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati and the Bhikshuni Yashodhara, together
with all their retinue, all rejoiced greatly, having obtained [such] unprecedented
[felicity], and immediately before the Buddha spoke thus in verse:
“World-honored leader!
Comforter of gods and men!
We, hearing thy prediction,
Have perfect peace in our hearts.”

After uttering this verse the bhikshunis spoke to the Buddha, saying: “World honored One! We also are able to publish abroad this sutra in lands in other regions.”
Thereupon the World-honored One looked upon the eighty myriads of kotis of nayutas of bodhisattva-mahasattvas. All these bodhisattvas were of [the stage] avaivartika, who rolled the never-retreating Law-wheel and had attained to the dharanis. Immediately they rose from their seats, went before the Buddha, with one mind folded their hands, and reflected thus: “If the World-honored One commands us
to keep and expound this sutra, we will proclaim abroad this Law as the Buddha has taught it.” Again they reflected thus: “The Buddha now is silent; we are not commanded; what shall we do?”

Then these bodhisattvas, respectfully obeying the Buddha’s will and
themselves desiring to fulfill their original vow, before the Buddha raised a lion’s roar and uttered a vow, saying:

“World-honored One! After the extinction of the Tathagata we will compass and travel through the worlds in all directions, in order to lead all the
living to copy this sutra, receive and keep, read and recite it, expound its meaning, practice it as their law, and rightly keep it in mind, all by the Buddha’s might. Be pleased, World-honored One, [though] in another quarter, to behold and guard us
from afar!”

Then the bodhisattvas all together unanimously raised their voices, speaking thus in verse:

"Be pleased to be without anxiety!
After the Buddha’s extinction,
In the [last] dreadful evil age,
We will proclaim abroad [this sutra].
Though in their ignorance many
Will curse and abuse us
And beat us with swords and staves,
We will endure it all.
Bhikshus in that evil age will be
Heretical, suspicious, warped,
Claiming to have attained when they have not,
And with minds full of arrogance.
Others in the aranya
Will wear patched garments in seclusion,
Pretending that they walk the true path
And scorning [other] people;
Greedily attached to gain,
They will preach the Law to laymen
And be revered by the world
As arhats of the six transcendent [powers];

These men, cherishing evil minds, Ever thinking of earthly things,
Assuming the name of aranyas,
Ever thinking of earthly things,
Assuming the name of aranyas,
Will love to calumniate us,
Saying such things of us as
‘All these bhikshus,
From love of gain,
Preach heretical doctrine;
They have themselves composed this sutra
To delude the people of the world;
For the sake of acquiring fame,
They make a specialty of this sutra.’
Always in the assemblies,
In order to ruin us,
To kings and ministers,
To Brahmans and citizens,
And to the other groups of bhikshus,
They will slanderously speak evil of us,
Saying: ‘These are men of false views,
Who proclaim heretical doctrines.’
But we, from reverence for the Buddha,
Will endure all these evils.
By these contemptuously addressed as ‘All you buddhas!’–
Even such scorn and arrogance
We will patiently endure.
In the evil age of the corrupt kalpa,
Abounding in fear and dread,
Devils will take possession of them
To curse, abuse, and insult us.
But we, revering and believing in the Buddha, Will wear the armor of perseverance;

For the sake of preaching this sutra
We will endure all these hard things.
We will not love body and life,
But only care for the supreme Way.
We will, throughout all ages to come,
Guard what the Buddha bequeaths.
World-honored One! Thou knowest that, In the corrupt age, vicious bhikshus,
Knowing not the laws so tactfully preached
As opportunity served by the Buddha,
Will abuse and frown upon us;
Repeatedly shall we be driven out,
And exiled afar from the monasteries.
Such evils will be our ills
For remembering the Buddha’s command,
But [we] will endure all these things.
Wherever in villages and cities
There be those who seek after the Law,
We will all go there and
Preach the Law bequeathed by the Buddha.
We are the World-honored One’s apostles
And, amidst a multitude having nothing to fear,
Will rightly preach the Law.
Be pleased, O Buddha, to abide in peace.
In the presence of the World-honored One And the buddhas come from all directions,
We thus make our vow,
And the Buddha knows our hearts."

This particular translation The Three fold Lotus Sutra complete can be found here in PDF form. Anyone seeking to discover the Supreme Law must study and spread this Sutra at this time.


Because the Lotus Sutra breaks the historic claims that women could not attain Buddhahood, Regarding the Chapter copied above, Nichiren in 1281AD in a letter to a devoted nun Comments:

"Then the Buddha in a loud voice addressed the four categories of Buddhists at large, saying, “Who can broadly preach the Lotus Sutra in this saha world?” When everyone responded with the thought, “I will, I will!” the Buddha fully three times admonished that nuns and laywomen desirous of repaying their debt to all the Buddhas should persevere through any difficulty to spread the Lotus Sutra in this saha world after his passing. But they did not pay attention, and vowed instead “to declare this sutra widely in the lands of the other directions.” Thus these nuns did not clearly understand the Buddha’s intent. How exasperated he must have been! Thereupon the Buddha turned aside and instead looked earnestly to the eighty myriad of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas.

I had therefore thought that, although women might tarnish their names and throw away their lives for the sake of insignificant matters, they were weak in pursuing the path of Buddhahood. But now you, born a woman in the evil world of the latter age, have been reviled, struck and persecuted by the barbaric inhabitants of these islands [of Japan], who are so ignorant of reason, and have endured it all to propagate the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha on Eagle Peak surely perceives that you far surpass that nun [Mahaprajapati]. The name of that nun [when she attained Buddhahood], the Buddha Beheld with Joy by All Sentient Beings, refers to none other; it belongs to you, Myoho-ama Gozen of the present time."


Springing Up Out of the Earth EXCERPT

At that time the bodhisattva-mahasattvas who had come from other lands, numerous as the sands of eight Ganges, arose in the great assembly, and with folded hands saluted and spoke to the Buddha, saying: “World-honored One! If the Buddha will
allow us, after his extinction, diligently and zealously to protect and keep, read and recite, copy and worship this sutra in this saha-world, we would preach it abroad in this land.” Thereupon the Buddha addressed all the host of those bodhisattva mahasattvas: Enough! My good sons! There is no need for you to protect and keep this sutra. Wherefore? Because in my saha-world there are in fact bodhisattva mahasattvas [numerous] as the sands of sixty thousand Ganges; each one of these bodhisattvas has a retinue [numerous] as the sands of sixty thousand Ganges; these persons are able, after my extinction, to protect and keep, read and recite, and preach
abroad this sutra.

When the Buddha had thus spoken, all the earth of the three-thousand-great thousandfold land of the saha-world trembled and quaked, and from its midst there issued together innumerable thousand myriad kotis of bodhisattva-mahasattvas. All
these bodhisattvas with their golden-hued bodies, thirty-two signs, and boundless radiance had all before been dwelling in [infinite] space1 below this saha-world. All these bodhisattvas, hearing the voice of Shakyamuni Buddha preaching, sprang forth
from below. Each one of these bodhisattvas was the commander of a great host, leading a retinue as the sands of sixty thousand Ganges; moreover, others led retinues as the sands of sixty thousand Ganges; moreover, others led retinues
[numerous] as the sands of fifty thousand, forty thousand, thirty thousand, twenty
thousand, ten thousand Ganges; moreover, down to the sands of one Ganges, the sands of half a Ganges, a quarter of it, down to a fraction of a thousand myriads of
kotis of nayutas; moreover, a thousand myriad kotis of nayutas of followers;
moreover, myriads of kotis of followers; moreover, a thousand myriad, a hundred myriad, or even a myriad; moreover, a thousand, a hundred, or even ten; moreover,
those who lead five, four, three, two, or one disciples; moreover, one who is alone,
happy in the practice of isolation. Such [bodhisattvas] as these are immeasurable,
illimitable, beyond the powers of comprehension by calculation or comparison.
When these bodhisattvas had emerged from the earth, each went up to the
wonderful Stupa of the Precious Seven in the sky, where were the Tathagata
Abundant Treasures and Shakyamuni Buddha. On their arrival they made obeisance,
with faces to the ground, to both the World-honored Ones, and going to the buddhas seated on the lion thrones under the jewel trees, they also saluted them, three times making procession around them on their right, with folded hands revering them, and extolling them with all kinds of bodhisattva hymns. Then they stood to one side, with delight gazing upon both the World-honored Ones.

From the time that these bodhisattva-mahasattvas first issued from the earth
and extolled the buddhas with all kinds of bodhisattva hymns, in the interval there had passed fifty minor kalpas. During all this time Shakyamuni Buddha sat in silence, and silent also were the four groups; [but] the fifty kalpas, through the divine power of the Buddha, seemed to the great multitude as half a day. At that time the four groups, also by the divine power of the Buddha, saw the bodhisattvas who everywhere fill the space of innumerable hundred thousand myriad kotis of domains. Among the host of those bodhisattvas there were the four leading teachers: the first was named Eminent Conduct, the second named Boundless Conduct, the third named Pure Conduct, and the fourth named Steadfast Conduct…

Another Letter (Gosho) written by Nichiren (excerpt)

"This is indeed an accursed time to live in this land. However, the Buddha has commanded me to be born in this age, and it would be impossible to go against his decree. And so, I have put complete faith in the sutra and launched the battle of the provisional and true teachings. Donning the armor of endurance and girding myself with the sword of the true teaching, I have raised the banner of Myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the entire eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra. Then drawing the bow of the Buddha’s declaration, “I have not yet revealed the truth” and notching the arrow of “honestly discarding the provisional teachings,” I have mounted the cart5 drawn by the great white ox and battered down the gates of the provisional teachings. Attacking first one and then another, I have refuted the Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen, Ritsu and other sects. Some of my adversaries have fled headlong while others have retreated, and still others have been captured to become my disciples. I continue to repulse their attacks and defeat them, but there are legions of enemies opposing the single king of the Law and the handful who follow him. So the battle goes on even today.

“The practice of the Lotus Sutra is shakubuku, the refutation of the provisional doctrines.” True to the letter of this golden saying, the believers of all provisional teachings and sects will ultimately be defeated and join the followers of the king of the Law. The time will come when all people, including those of Learning, Realization and Bodhisattva, will enter on the path to Buddhahood, and the Mystic Law alone will flourish throughout the land. In that time because all people chant Nam(u)-myoho-renge-kyo together, the wind will not beleaguer the branches or boughs, nor will the rain fall hard enough to break a clod. The world will become as it was in the ages of Fu Hsi and Shen Nung in ancient China. Disasters will be driven from the land, and people will be rid of misfortune. They will also learn the art of living long, fulfilling lives. Realize that the time will come when the truth will be revealed that both the Person and the Law are unaging and eternal. There cannot be the slightest doubt about the sutra’s solemn promise of a peaceful life in this world."

Chapter 7 Lotus Sutra Parable of the Conjured City

"After my extinction there will also be disciples of mine who, not hearing this
sutra, nor knowing nor apprehending the course which bodhisattvas pursue, will by their own merits conceive the idea of extinction and enter [what they think is] nirvana.

[But] in other domains [wherever they may go] I shall [still] be Buddha though under different names. These people, though they conceive the idea of extinction and enter [what they call] nirvana, yet in those lands will seek after the Buddha-wisdom and succeed in hearing this sutra. Only by the Buddha-vehicle will they attain [real] extinction. There is no other vehicle except the tactful teachings of the Tathagata.
Bhikshus! If the Tathagata himself knows that the time of nirvana has arrived and the assembly is pure, firm in faith and discernment, penetrated with the Law of the Void, profound in meditation, then he will gather together all bodhisattvas and shravakas to preach this sutra to them. In the world there is no second vehicle to attain extinction; there is only the One Buddha-vehicle for attaining extinction. Know, bhikshus! The tact of the Tathagata reaches deeply into the natures of all living beings and knows that they are bent on the pleasures of trifling things and deeply attached to the five desires.
For the sake of these he preaches nirvana. If they hear it, they will receive it in faith.
"Suppose there is a fearful region, five hundred yojanas [in extent], through
which lies a perilous and difficult road, far from the abodes of men. [Suppose] there is a large company wishing to pass along that road to the Place of Jewels, and they have a guide, wise and astute, who knows well the perilous road, where it is open and where closed, and who leads the company that wish to cross this arduous [region]. [Suppose] the company he leads become tired on the way and say to the leader: ‘We are utterly exhausted and moreover afraid and cannot go any farther; the road before us stretches far; let us turn back.’ The leader, [a man] of much tact, reflects thus: ‘These [people] are
to be pitied. How can they give up such great treasure and want to turn back?’
Reflecting thus, by a device, in the midst of the perilous road, he mystically makes a city over three hundred yojanas in extent and says to the company: ‘Do not fear, and do not turn back. Here is this great city in which you may rest and follow your own
desires. If you enter this city, you will speedily be at rest; and if you [then] are able to
go forward to the Place of Jewels, you proceed.’
"Thereupon the exhausted company greatly rejoice in their minds and praise
[their] unexampled [fortune]: ‘Now indeed we escape this evil way; let us speedily be at
ease.’ Then the company proceed into the magic city, imagining they have arrived at their destination, and are settled in comfort. When the leader perceives that the company are rested and are no longer fatigued, he makes the magic city disappear, and says to the company: ‘Come along, all of you, the Place of Jewels is at hand. I [only] created this past large city for you to rest in.’
“Bhikshus! So is it with the Tathagata. At present he is your great leader
acquainted with all the distresses, the evils, the perils, and the long-continued
[processes of] mortality, from which you must be rid and removed. If living beings only hear of One Buddha-vehicle, they will not desire to see the Buddha nor wish to approach him, but think thus: ‘The Buddha-way is long and far; only after the long suffering of arduous labor can the end be reached.’ The Buddha, knowing that their minds are feeble and low, by his tact, when they are on the way, to give them rest, preaches the two [stages] of nirvana.10 If [those] beings dwell in [these] two stages, then the Tathagata proceeds to tell them: ‘You have not yet accomplished your task. The place where you are dwelling is near the Buddha-wisdom. Take note and ponder that the nirvana which you have attained is not the real [one]!
It is only that the Tathagata, through his tactfulness, in the One Buddha-vehicle discriminates and speaks of three.’ It is just as when that leader, in order to give rest [to his company], magically makes a great city and after they are rested informs them, saying: ‘The Place of Jewels is at hand; this city is not real, but only my magic production.’”

Some important Buddhist terms

"Three Realms of Existence
The Three Realms of Existence are: the realm of the Five Components, the Realm of Living Beings and the Realm of the Environment. These realms are categories of phenomena arising from the unity of causes and conditions, and do not exist independently of each other. The Realm of the Five Components illustrates that the five components (form, perception, conception, volition, and consciousness) vary from person to person. The Realm of living beings refers to the truth that the lives of common mortals who are formed by the temporary union of the five components experience different worlds of the Ten Worlds. The Realm of the Environment illustrates that there are differences in the places where the common mortals of the Ten Worlds dwell.

The Realm of the Five Components
This is the place where there are differences among people in terms of material law and spiritual law. The five components are:

The Component of Form – indicates physical and material existence
The Component of Perception – the function to receive information
The Component of Conception – the function of forming an idea or concept about the information received.
The Component of Volition – the function of creating intention or desire
The Component of Consciousness – the function to understand all aspects of existence
The Realm of Living Beings
The indicates that living beings, each formed by the five components, can see the various distinctions of the ten worlds through their association with one another.

The Realm of the Environment
This is the place where living beings dwell in their respective, insentient environments."

The twelve links enumerated forward and backward

due to the condition of ignorance, action arises;
due to the condition of action, consciousness arises;
due to the condition of consciousness, name and form arise;
due to the condition of name and form, the six sense spheres arise;
due to the condition of the six sense spheres, contact arises;
due to the condition of contact, feeling arises;
due to the condition of feeling, attachment arises;
due to the condition of attachment, grasping arises;
due to the condition of grasping, the potentialized level of karma called existence arises;
due to the condition of existence, birth arises;
due to the condition of birth, aging and death arise.
Thus the whole mass of Suffering.

when ignorance ceases, action ceases;
when action ceases, consciousness ceases;
when consciousness ceases, name and form cease;
when name and form cease, the six sense spheres cease;
when the six sense spheres cease, contact ceases;
when contact ceases, feeling ceases;
when feeling ceases, attachment ceases;
when attachment ceases, grasping ceases;
when grasping ceases, the potentialized level of karma called “existence” ceases;
when the potentialized level of karma called “existence” ceases, birth ceases;
when birth ceases, aging and death cease.
Thus suffering ceases.

The above is called the 12 Links or Nidanas.
It is a basic explanation of cause and effect based on the Four Noble Truths