Renjô shô

(Also referred to as Zenshû mondô shô – Dialogue with the Zen schools.)

Traduit du Japonais par Gérard Purec
Translated from French to English by S. Dubois B.A. French Literature


Written by Nichiren Daishonin in the seventh year of Kencho (1255) at the age of 34 years old.


The Zen schools states: At the moment of extinction, the “Venerable One of the World” going up into the pulpit took a flower that he showed to the multitude. A smile appeared on the face of Kasyapa. The enlightened one then said: “I possess the treasure of vision of the Good Dharma. Extinction is a marvelous heart (mind). The real aspect is deprived of specific characteristics. It is beyond words; it is the object of a particular transmission outside of the teachings. I transmit it solely to the Great Kasyapa.”

I ask: What sutra do these sentences refer to?

The Zen schools reply: They are sentences from the “Sutra of Questions of the King Mahabrahman to the Buddha and the Clarification of his Doubts.”

I ask: What Tripitaka translated this said sutra? No trace can be found, neither in the inventory of the Zhenyua(1) nor in Kaiyan’s.(2) What about it?

The Zen schools reply: This sutra is a secret book. It is for this reason that only the sentences have been transmitted from India.

I ask: By what saint and by what master of men has this sutra being introduced to China? No trace exists. This sutra has never been mentioned in any of the ancient inventories. It is only recent inventories that mention it. This sutra represents the foundation of the Zen Schools. It should have appeared in the most ancient of the inventories. Know it, it is a matter of an apocryphal book.

The Zen Schools states: The “Nirvana Sutra” indicates: “At present, I transmit the entire unsurpassed good Dharma that I hold for the great Kasyapa.” What do you have to say to this statement?

I answer: Although the expression without superior resembles the (vocabulary of) the Large Vehicle, it indicates the Small Vehicle. Compared to the heretical teachings of the “Exterior Paths,” even the Small Vehicle is said to be the Good Dharma. For instance, when we say that the Great Dharma was progressively transmitted to the East, Mia-lo refers to them in his commentaries as a “common designation of the Buddha’s teachings.” He therefore, designates the entirety of the Large and Small Vehicles, as well as the true and provisional by naming them the Great Dharma. In relation to the “Exterior Paths,” even the Small Vehicle qualifies as the Large Vehicle, as it happens that a commoner is addressed as Mister as though he was of noble birth.

In the third scroll of the “Extinction Sutra (Nirvana Sutra),” it is written: “If I transmitted the treasure of the Dharma to Ananda and to the numerous monks, it would not persist for very long. For what reason? Because all the listeners and the great Kasyapa are impermanent. It is like an old man who receives a special ability. For this reason, we have to truly carry out the transmission of the unsurpassed Buddha’s Dharma to the Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are fertile in debate, therefore the treasure of the Dharma would remain eternally and this would enable beings in thousands of lifetimes to receive benefits and tranquility. It can be compared to an adult in his prime receiving special abilities. It is in this sense that the Bodhisattva’s ask questions. It appears clearly that the Large and Small Vehicles are the object of a different transmission.” 

In the tenth scroll of the same sutra, it is stated: “Know it, Manjusri must truly preach at large the Great Dharma to the four categories of beings.(3) I will at present carry out the transmission of this sutra….If Kasyapa and Ananda come along, I will transmit this good Dharma in the same way.” We will then know that the transmission of the Great Dharma was carried out to Manjushi and Kasyapa. This Dharma, object of the transmission by the “Awaked One,” is the Small Vehicle.

The “Discourse on the Nature of the Awakening”(4) states: “If a man awakens in his heart (mind), he will obtain the way of Buddhahood. This is why we refer to him as the “Awakened One.”

There are five levels of Buddhahood.(5) Which one are you concerned with? Furthermore, there are diverse forms of achieving the Way. What Way are you concerned with? Other sutras do not preach the “Great Buddhahood.” Neither is it the Path without superior. The sutra states: “For more than 40 years, I have not yet revealed the truth.”(6)

Question: Noble or vulgar, man or woman, what Way can one obtain by the Lotus?

I answer: That all become Buddhas, even with the help of a single stance is indubitable.(7) It also states: “Honestly rejecting the Provisional. I will now preach the Superior Way.”(8) We realize here that it is a question of superior Buddhahood. It is during a brief instant of listening to it that we will attain ultimate Buddhahood, perfect and infinite.(9) To achieve this Buddhahood is the work and virtue of listening to this doctrine for even a brief moment.

Question: What is pertaining to a brief instant? Do thirty brief instants cover one day and one night? Does the instant that is in question in “to listen for a brief instant” indicate this length of time?

I answer: It is as it was said before. In the second volume of Zhiyi’s “Cessation and Exam,” it is written: “Do not reject it, even for a brief instant.”

In the “Decision to Propagate,” it is stated: “It is not permitted to reject it, even if it is for an instant. That is why it is called a brief instant. This is why an instant represents an immediate moment.”

Question: Having it’s foundation on the original grounds of serenity represents the scope of Zen.

I answer: What is the original field of serenity? And in what sutra is it mentioned? Only the Lotus Sutra, which is the field of bliss of humankind and the heavens, can teach it to humans and to celestial beings. It is for this reason that the “Awaked One” is called the master of human beings and of the Gods. Those who have faith in this Sutra don’t only see the Buddha in their own heart (mind), but equally the Buddhas of the three stages of past, present and future; it is like looking at pure crystal and seeing within it colored images. In the sutra, it is said: “it is as though one is seeing all the colored images in a clear and pure mirror.”

The Zen schools retort: “This heart (mind) is the Buddha; the body is the Buddha.”

I answer: In the sutra, it is said: “The heart (mind) is our biggest enemy. This enemy is of the worst kind. This enemy can perfectly control humans and send them right to King Emma. You will be alone to fall into hell because of your bad karma, your wife and children that you feed, your brothers and even your parents will not be able to save you. “The Extinction Sutra (Nirvana Sutra)” extorts: “even if you vow to become the master of your heart (mind), do not make your heart (mind) your master.” To have pretense as to the identity of the heart (mind) and the Buddha with our stupid shameless heart (mind), is it not like having pretense to have obtained what we have not yet obtained, thinking of attesting what we have not yet proven?

Question: What is the thought behind the Lotus school?

I answer: The sutra establishes: “Endowed with thirty two distinctive characteristics, it will be therefore the authentic extinction.”(10) He says again: “realize quickly the body of the Buddha.”(11) The Zen schools respecting the Buddha in its principal nature think of themselves as being equal to the Buddha and fall in presumptuousness by creating criminals vowed to hell without intermittence. For this reason, the Lotus Sutra stipulates: “Presumptious monks will fall in the large well.”(12)

The Zen schools states: It is said that we need to walk upon the summit of Vairocana’s cranium.(13)

I reply: But who is Vairocana? If it is question of the body of the Dharma of the world of the surrounding dharmas, the mountains, the rivers and the earth are also the body and the earth of Vairocana. It is therefore a matter of the principal nature of Vairocana. Dogs and foxes also walk this body and this earth. This point does not enter into the framework of the Zen schools. If in truth, we need to walk on the summit of the Buddha’s cranium, we can say that even Brahma cannot see the summit. How then, can the thinness of the earth be walked upon.(14) The “Awaked One” is endowed with the three virtues of sovereign, master and parents for all beings. The person who would walk upon his compassionate father, having great benefactory virtues, would be a great fool to commit the cardinal sin of unfilial piety - a wicked man indeed. This kind of man is rejected by the Kongzi books,(15) and with a stronger reason, he is rejected by the good Dharma of the “Great One.” How could praising such heretics and their heterodox teachings not constitute a heavy crime. When the “Awaked One” was alive, in order to pay homage, Kasyapa would salute him from the head,(16) the obscure Zen walk on his cranium; what horror.(17) The Zen schools claim that there exists a particular transmission outside of the teachings that exists beyond words.(18)

I reply: In general, we can consider that there exits three types of teachings spread across the world. The first is Confucianism. There are twenty-seven kinds in existence. The second, is Taoism. Here, there are currently twenty-five. The third are the twelve kinds of Buddhist writings.(19) The Tendai school sets forth four and eight teachings. Do you classify them outside of the teachings? In the law of medicine, those who are on the outside of the fundamental way are called “doctors of the outside books.” In the human language, those who do not inherent their name are referred to as the “Exterior Family.” In the Buddha’s teaching, whatever distances itself from the sutras and the discourses are called the “Outside Way.” The “Extinction Sutra (Nirvana Sutra)” indicates: “If there are people who do not follow what the ‘Awakened One’ preaches, we need to know that they are followers of the Devil.” In the ninth scroll of the Determination to Propagate, it is written: “… (those who attach themselves to) sutras prior to the Lotus sutra are disciples of the Exterior Paths.”

The Zen schools retort: “No transmission of the ‘Awaked One’ and the patriarchs.”(20)

I reply by saying: “If it is the case, why do you designate twenty-eight patriarchs under the western heaven and six patriarchs on the eastern earth?(21) Do you deny the principle of the transmission of the Great Kasyapa? What do have to say about this contradiction?”

The Zen schools state: The saints did not transmit the unique path towards elevation.

I reply: If it is so, even Zen schools cannot understand and realize it. If they do not understand it, is it not because it belongs to Zen? In general, we chant the elevation because we remain in arrogance. We are proud of our insight into nature, despite that we have not cured our troubled heart (mind). The fact that the predisposition and the teaching are opposed, justifies even more my reproach. Whatever the case, you hinder the ritual. Your errors are too numerous. In effect, while supporting that the transmission takes place outside of the teachings, you are guilty of studying what is outside of the teachings. While taking pleasure in writing, you also commend the vanity of these writings. Your words and your heart (mind) are in discordance. Is this not a sign of you belonging to the Demon of Heaven? Are you not disciples of the “Exterior Way”? The Buddha saves people by words.

Question: What is the proof?

I answer: In the 15th volume of the “Extinction Sutra (Nirvana Sutra)” it is written: “What I wish is that you, the beings, receive and keep the words that are from another world. In the Sutra “Resolving the Doubts Concerning the Period of the Semblance of the Dharma”(23) it is stated: “It is because I have recourse to words that I can save the beings and that they can attain Awakening.” Without words, how could the “Awakened One” accomplish his task? Isn’t it by words that Zen schools makes themselves known to others? Bodhidharma,(24) who came from the southern part of India, wrote a commentary in five volumes on the four scrolls of the “Sutra of the Entry (of the Buddha in the country) of Lanka.”(25) When he transmitted the teachings to Huike, he said to him: “When I see the land of China, it is only this sutra that can save people. It is by this sutra that you will save the world.” Therefore, why do you speak lightly of the transmission outside of the teachings?  

Also, in relation to the words concerning the non transmission, he says: “We are the only ones to be able to know and to distinguish the two alternatives of hot and cold.”(26) By this, is he not referring to words? He applies the understanding of hot and cold after having made the transmission. From this, the Lotus Sutra recommends: “Reject your old knowledge, and get closer to good friends.”(27) “The Cessation and the Exam” indicate: “If we do not meet the Master, wisdom perverted, day by day will increase and life and death, month after month, will worsen. It is like pulling on a twisted tree from a dense forest, never can we hope to escape from it.” In general, decisions in this world are taken in consultation with others. Even more reason, how can we avoid solely counting on our views concerning the profound principles of the universe. For this reason, the sutra state: “To not be able to see what is near, like men’s eyelashes, to not be able to see what is far, like the traces that birds leave in the sky.” I will set aside for now, the superior roots and the superior predisposition of the sitting meditation.(28) At the present time, the Zen schools are like those who receive a jar and (do not see it because) it is turned facing a wall. The sutra states: “Blind, they do not see anything. They do not seek the numerous Buddhas, or the Dharma that they propose in order to stop suffering. Profoundly penetrated by erroneous views, they attempt to rid themselves of sufferance by sufferance.” In the “Determination to Propagate” it is stated: “Even without knowing the words of this world, how can they know the far away principle of the Middle Way? How, even more, can they know the habitual secrets?” The present Zen schools are all a gathering of big heretics. In particular, because they use the collection of words of ordinary men, having not even interrupted the three aberrations(29) and neglect the words of the “Enlightened One” endowed with the four wisdoms clear and perfect.(30) I repeat, truly, they are in error. There is no remedy before sickness. There is no teaching before the predisposition. Even the Bodhisattva’s that have achieved equal awakening use the sutra. Why then, do stupid viles not yet believe in it? In fact, when Zen schools developed in China, the country was immediately destroyed.

There are sufficient amount of ignorant Zen Masters (of Buddhism) in this country to foresee its destruction. The “Cessation and the Exam” point out: “It is the disastrous prediction of the destruction of the Dharma; it is the disastrous prediction of the end of an era.”

The Zen Schools states: The Lotus School refutes the principle of the uselessness of words. Therefore, for what reason, did the “Awakened One” teach without using a single word.(31)

I answer: You cite the “Sutra of the Entrance in the Country of Lanka?” Do you not know the two doctrines of the Dharma present at the beginning of the attested Dharma?(32) If you do not, you must study them. Furthermore, the other sutra refutes by saying: “I have not yet revealed the truth.”(33) Why in this case, give me indications?

Question: In the sutra “Resolving Doubts Concerning the Period of the Semblance of the Dharma” it is stated: “I have never seen the ‘Awakened One’ preach one single stance of the Dharma.” What do you have to say?

I answer: These words are those of the “Permanent Bodhisattva Don.”(34) In the “Lotus Sutra” it is stated: “the Bodhisattvas hearing this Dharma will be rid of the snares of doubt. The two thousand arhats as well, will be able to truly become a Buddha.”(35) Eighty thousand Bodhisattvas and two thousand arhats, all seated in a line, listened, heard and rejoiced. Only “Permanent Offering” did not see anything. On what postulate do we need to base our foundation? The name “Permanent Offering” does not appear amongst the Bodhisattvas cited as being present in the Lotus. The fact that he did not see, is logical even more so in light of what follows: “the seeing beings that I give birth and death to, I preach the Dharma in order to save them.” Why stop at the only stance of the non teaching and lose the marvelous principle of what is taught. The doctrines that you extol are all huge erroneous views. Correct your attachment, take refuge and dedicate yourself to the Lotus. If you do not do this, will it not show a lack of seeking spirit?