The Universal Salty Taste
- Doitsu Kanmi Gosho -
There are six kinds of flavors: The first is subtle, the second is salty, the third is pungent, the fourth is sour, the
fifth is sweet and the sixth is bitter. Even if you prepare a sumptuous feast of a hundred different dishes, it will not be
fit for a great king's feast if it lacks the single flavor of salt. Even the rarest delicacies of all the lands and seas will
taste insipid without salt.
The ocean has eight mysterious qualities. First, the ocean becomes gradually deeper and deeper. Second, its bottom is too
deep to fathom. Third, its salty taste is identical everywhere. Fourth, its tides rise and fall regularly. Fifth, it houses
various treasures. Sixth, living beings of great stature reside in it. Seventh, the ocean rids itself of corpses. Eighth,
though it absorbs all rivers and heavy rainfalls, its volume neither increases nor decreases.
The first quality, "the ocean becomes gradually deeper and deeper," means figuratively that the Lotus Sutra gradually leads
all people, from common mortals who lack understanding to sages who have understanding, to attain the way of Buddhahood. "Its
bottom is too deep to fathom" indicates that the realm of the Lotus Sutra can be understood and shared only between Buddhas;
bodhisattvas at the stage of togaku or below cannot possibly realize it. As for the quality, "its salty taste is identical
everywhere": All the various rivers, which contain no salt, are comparable to the sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, which
cannot enable anyone to attain enlightenment. Just as the water of all rivers eventually flows into the ocean and becomes
salty, so all the people of different capacities instructed through the various provisional teachings are eventually enabled
to attain the path of buddhahood by taking faith in the Lotus Sutra. "Its tides rise and fall regularly" indicates that those who embrace the Mystic Law will surely attain the stage of non-regression, even if they should lose their lives. "It houses various treasures" means that the practices and virtuous deeds of
all Buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as the benefits of the paramitas, are all contained within the Mystic Law. As for the
quality, "living beings of great stature reside in it," Buddhas and bodhisattvas are here referred to as "living beings of
great stature," because they possess great wisdom. The great stature, the great aspiring mind, the great extraordinary features,
the great evil-conquering forces, the great preaching, the great authority, the great occult powers, the great compassion
of these Buddhas and bodhisattvas--all originate from the Lotus Sutra. "The ocean rids itself of corpses" means that through
the Lotus Sutra one can free himself for all eternity from the offense of slandering the Law or of having incorrigible disbelief.
The eighth quality, "its volume neither increases nor decreases," means that the heart of the Lotus Sutra is the teaching
that all people equally possess the Buddha nature.
The salty water in a tub or jar of pickled vines ebbs and flows in exact accordance with the tides of the ocean. A votary
of the Lotus Sutra who is subjected to imprisonment is like the salt in a tub or jar, while Shakyamuni Buddha who freed himself
from the burning house is like the salt of the ocean. To imprison a votary of the Lotus Sutra is to imprison Shakyamuni Buddha
himself. How astonished Bonten, Taishaku and the Four Heavenly Kings must be to witness it! The Ten Goddesses pledged to punish anyone who persecutes a votary by splitting his head into seven pieces. When will this vow be fulfilled, if not now?
Virulent sores broke out suddenly all over the body of King Ajatashatru, who had imprisoned King Bimbisara. How can one
who imprisons a votary of the Lotus Sutra avoid the suffering of breaking out in sores all over his body?