Honmon Happon is the eight chapters from chapter 15 Emerging from the Earth 従地涌出品第十五 through chapter 22 Entrustment 嘱累品第二十二, of the Lotus Sutra. HBS regards Honmon Happon as the most important teaching out of the Lotus Sutra. The reason is that the Gohonzon (the object of worship) and ways of Buddhist practice that are prepared especially for us, people living in Mappō 末法 period (Latter Day of the Law), were revealed in Honmon Happon.
Let’s take a quick look at each chapter of Honmon Happon. In chapter 15 Emerging from the Earth numerous bodhisattvas headed by Jōgyō 上行 Bodhisattva (Superior Practice Bodhisattva) emerged from the earth. Together they are called Jiyu no Bosatsu 地涌の菩薩. Jiyu means “emerging from the earth” and Bosatsu means “bodhisattvas.” Jiyu no Bosatsu are high and noble ranked bodhisattvas who have been guided by Primordial Buddha since the eternal past.
In the next chapter, 16 The Life Span of Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha revealed that his true form is Primordial Buddha, who attained enlightenment in the distant past by practicing bodhisattva training called Bosatsu-gyō 菩薩行 (chanting the Odaimoku and spreading it to others). Then, he said that the merits of enlightenment of Buddha are all in the Odaimoku, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.
In the chapters 17 Kinds of Merits 分別功徳品第十七, 18 The Merits of Joyfully Following the Lotus Sutra 随喜功徳品第十八, and 19 The Merits of the Dharma-Preacher 法師功徳品第十九, Buddha revealed the ways of Buddhist practice for us, people born in Mappō period. He also explained how much Kudoku 功徳 (the merit of Buddha’s enlightenment) and what kind of reward will be obtained by people who joyfully follow the teachings of Primordial Buddha and bear Odaimoku in mind.
In chapter 20 Bodhisattva Never Disparaging 常不軽菩薩品第二十, a tale about Fukyō bodhisattva 不軽菩薩 was introduced as an example for practitioners of the Lotus Sutra in the Mappō period. According to the tradition, Fukyō bodhisattva bowed to people saying, “You can become a Buddha if you practice the Lotus Sutra since you naturally possess Buddha-nature.” Some people got angry because they thought he was making fun of them. They struck him with sticks and stones, but he dodged the blows and kept repeating, “I don’t despise you. You can become a Buddha.”
In the last two chapters, 21 The Supernatural Powers of Buddha 如来神力品第二十一 and 22 Entrustment 嘱累品第二十二, Primordial Buddha gave Odaimoku, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, in which he included all the merits of his enlightenment to Jiyu no Bosatsu headed by Jōgyō Bodhisattva and entrusted the propagation of the Odaimoku in the Mappō period to them.
Jiyu no Bosatsu appeared only in Honmon Happon of the Lotus Sutra, but not in any Nizen-Shokyō 爾前諸経 (the Pre-Lotus Sutras). Therefore, this means that Honmon Happon teachings are for people who live in the Mappō period since Jiyu no Bosatsu headed by Jōgyō Bodhisattva were directly ordered by Primordial Buddha to propagate the Odaimoku in the Mappō period after Buddha temporarily disappeared from this world.
Who is Jōgyō Bodhisattva, the leader of Jiyu no Bosatsu? Let’s see it in the next article.