Deciphering the Lotus Sutra:
Commentary by Nichiren Daishonin (Chapter 1 – ND 1.1)
Point One, regarding the words “This is what I heard:”
The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, volume one, says, “The words ‘This is what’ indicate the substance of the doctrine heard from the Buddha. ‘I heard’ indicates a person who is capable of upholding that doctrine.”
The Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra,” volume one, says, “Therefore, from first to last, the whole sutra represents the substance of what was heard from the Buddha.”
The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The “heard” of “I heard” indicates the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth; “the substance of the doctrine” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
In the phrase “person who is capable of upholding,” one should give particular thought to the word “capable.” When On “The Words and Phrases,” volume one, says, “Therefore, from first to last, the whole sutra,” etc., the “first” indicates the “Introduction” chapter (chapter one) and the “last” indicates the “Universal Worthy” chapter (chapter twenty-eight). The “substance of the doctrine” means its heart or core.
Doctrine (hō) may also mean all phenomena (shohō); that is, it represents the heart of all phenomena. The heart or core of all phenomena is Myoho-renge-kyo.
The Great Teacher Dengyō [in his Outstanding Principles of the Lotus Sutra] says, “Though he praises the Lotus Sutra, in fact he kills the heart of the Lotus.” You should let your mind dwell in particular on the word “kill.” The word “heard” of “This is what I p.10heard” cannot apply to a person of no faith. But a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra may be said to have “heard” the substance of the doctrine put forth in “This is what,” etc.
With regard to this, Words and Phrases, volume one, says, “‘This is what,’ etc., are words indicating faith and compliance. Faith means understanding of what one has heard, and compliance means that [one proceeds to follow it as] one follows the path of teacher and disciple.”
In effect, then, Nichiren and his followers are persons to whom the phrase “This is what I heard” may apply.