The five guides for propagation is a doctrine of five concepts expounded by the Daishonin to judge the relative merit and profundity of religions, in order to determine and select the correct teaching. They are the teaching, the capacity, the time, the country, and the stage of propagation. This doctrine is a measure for judging religions in general. Moreover, it is the principle for determining which is the most appropriate denomination of Buddhism. It is also called the five principles for judging a teaching.
There are a great many religions in the world, such as Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. It is necessary for us to objectively and accurately select the religion that will lead us to true happiness. As the Daishonin stated in his “On the Protection of the Nation” (“Shugo koka-ron”):
I hope the priests and lay believers will first distinguish the correct teaching from the incorrect ones, and uphold the correct teaching hoping for happiness in the next life.
In Buddhism, there have been various kinds of established standards to judge the contents of teachings. Among them, Nichiren Daishonin’s five guides far surpass all the others. It is truly a superior and original standard. It was also the basis for the Daishonin’s establishment of his own doctrine of the Three Great Secret Laws.
1. The Teaching
Judging the teaching is done by comparing and assessing various doctrines. In his Gosho, “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren Daishonin states:
Without knowing how to compare the relative profundities of the teachings, no one can grasp the relative profundities [of the truth expounded] among their doctrines.
(Gosho, pp. 561-562)
We can classify all religions according to the Daishonin’s doctrine of the fivefold comparison:
1) The outer teachings and the inner teachings
This is the comparison between non-Buddhist teachings and Buddhist teachings.
2) The Hinayana and the Mahayana within the teachings of Buddhism
This is the comparison between the teachings that have the sole purpose of merely
personal enlightenment without considering the benefit of others, and the
teachings for the sake of saving all living beings based on the desire to benefit others as well.
3) The provisional Mahayana and the true Mahayana
Within the Mahayana teachings there are the provisional and the true. Provisional Mahayana includes the Mahayana pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. True Mahayana is the Lotus Sutra.
4) The theoretical and the essential teachings of the Lotus Sutra
The theoretical teaching consists of the first fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sutra and was expounded by the Buddha without revealing his true identity. The essential teaching consists of the second fourteen chapters and is the teaching expounded by the Buddha from the standpoint of his true identity from the remotest past.
5) The Buddhism of the harvest and the Buddhism of the sowing
The Buddhism of the harvest is a surface interpretation of Shakyamuni’s Lotus Sutra. The Buddhism of the sowing is the meaning hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra, or the mystic Law (Myoho) revealed by the Daishonin.
Judging the teachings means to assess all of the teachings expounded by sages and worthies, and to judge all of the Buddhist sutras, precepts, and commentaries expounded by Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Through this process, we can select the supreme teaching.
The doctrine of the fivefold comparison demonstrates that the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, the great Law of sowing, is the most superior teaching of all. Furthermore, the principle of the three divisions of the fivefold view expounded by the Daishonin in his Gosho, “The True Object of Worship” also clarifies the fact that the Buddhism of the sowing of the Latter Day of the Law is the supreme teaching.
(Note: This chapter can be read in its entirety in the book: The Doctrines and Practice of Nichiren Shoshu.
For more information, please contact your local temple.)