Tsuisetsu Tsuimin (追説追泯)
The expression "tsuisetsu tsuimin" (literally meaning "re-exposition and re-effacement") is a Japanese Buddhist term that refers to an interpretation given to "the Nirvana Sutra" from the perspective (represented by the Tendai sect and Nichiren sect of Buddhism) that regards the Lotus Sutra as the fundamental sutra that brings salvation to the whole world. The term literally means to explain teachings once again and to eliminate differences in views. This interpretation of the Nirvana Sutra was originated by Chigi, a high priest of the Tendai School of Buddhism who lived during the sixth century.
This view interprets the Nirvana Sutra as 'tsuisetsu' (a re-exposition of the Lotus Sutra sermons), which Buddha gave to people who failed to attend these sermons (or failed to understand their meaning) based upon his Lotus Sutra sermons along with his other previous sermons on temporary truths contained in various Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhist sutras, such as Kegon (Flower Garland), Agon (Agama), Hodo (Expansion) and Hannya (Wisdom). The view also interprets Buddha's sermons in "the Nirvana Sutra," which were preached after his "Lotus Sutra" sermons, as not simply representing his teachings on temporary truths, but his teachings on eternal truths, which were taught based on his "Lotus Sutra" sermons in order to eliminate differences ('tsuimin'). Thus, according to this interpretation, it refers that the Buddha's teachings in the Nirvana Sutra were taught to eliminate the distinction between different views about his teachings and the distinction between temporary and eternal truths.
Interpretation of the Nirvana Sutra from the perspective that regards the Lotus sutra as the most important sutra that brings salvation to the whole world
The Tendai sect of Buddhism groups teachings given by Buddha during his lifetime into 'Keho-no-shikyo' (Shakyamuni's four kinds of teaching of the content of the Truth accommodated to the capacity of his disciples) named 'zo, tsu, betsu, and en' (Tripitaka, common, distinct, and perfect). Buddha had completed his teachings in the first three of these categories, zo, tsu and to, before his "Lotus Sutra" sermons, in which he explained the ultimate truth that he had finally grasped the teaching of en. And in sermons contained in "the Nirvana Sutra," Buddha explained the four categories of teachings that he had already preached, once again for the masses who were not yet ready (or not enlightened enough) to attain religious salvation. According to this interpretation, "the Nirvana Sutra" is no more than another version of Buddha's previous teachings revealed in "the Lotus Sutra" sermons, made particularly for the unenlightened masses.
Also, "Hokke Mongu" (Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra) states as follows. The level of truths revealed in the Lotus Sutra far exceeds the level of other sutras. The Lotus Sutra contains many teachings that have been practiced over many years. Buddha's entire thought, which gradually grew from its origin and was preached to the world on various occasions in various different ways, is revealed in this sutra in the most comprehensive form. This sutra presents Buddha's entire thought, as if a farmer would plant crops in spring, cultivate in summer to harvest them in fall for winter storage. Buddha's teachings preached after his Lotus Sutra sermons are just like gleanings collected after a harvest.
(From the "Hokke Mongu")
As stated above, paraphrasing a paragraph about 'harvesting in fall for winter storage' discovered in "the Nirvana Sutra," he maintained that the Buddhist truths (perfect, eternal truths) revealed in "the Nirvana Sutra" have their origin in "the Lotus Sutra."
Although Nehan Sect initially objected to these Chigi's interpretation, they were overpowered by his wisdom and energy and lost their power, finally merging into the Tendai sect of Buddhism.
In "Hoonsho" (On Repaying Debts of Gratitude), Nichiren also writes as follows:
Also, when facing the Lotus Sutra, this sutra is believed to have owed its success to the Buddha's teachings revealed in the Lotus Sutra, which brought salvation to 8000 disciples of his. It was thus unable to add anything to what had already been harvested in fall for winter storage, as the author of the sutra states. Therefore, the sutra is understood the Nirvana Sutra and I are inferior in value to the Lotus Sutra. However, since there have been disputes among scholars around the world over the value of the Nirvana Sutra, the scholars for generations need to examine it closely.
Interpretations that emphasize the importance of the "Nirvana Sutra"
Those who support interpretations that place greater emphasis on the independent value of "the Nirvana Sutra" argue that the paragraph about 'harvesting in fall for winter storage' is correctly cited from the Nirvana Sutra but that his interpretation deliberately omits the statement preceding the paragraph, thereby giving rise to a serious misunderstanding.
The whole preamble of the relevant chapter Nyoraisho-bon (literally, chapter of Nyorai's nature), the volume nine of "the Nirvana Sutra" is the following:
Just as those who stop all activities at night are bound to resume their work on the next day unless they have completed their tasks, those who learn Mahayana Buddhism will never be able to achieve nirvana and live in peace without learning the ultimate Buddhist truths revealed in the Nirvana Sutra, even if they have read all other sutras and studied all other Buddha's teachings. The Nirvana Sutra will bring them eternal salvation, just as rain from heaven helps plants to grow and bear fruit, thereby preventing famines and bringing great benefits to the world. Eternal salvation brought by Buddha is just like rain falling from heaven. Buddha's teachings will thus cure eight various diseases. This sutra (Nirvana Sutra) will greatly benefit the public, just like fruit that benefits everyone and enables them to live in peace.
Just as the teachings revealed in the Lotus Sutra achieved great success by enabling 8000 disciples of Buddha achieve religious salvation, this sutra will teach Buddhist truths to the unenlightened masses, who will have nothing more to learn, just as farmers who have harvested crops in fall for winter storage have nothing more to do,
(Preamble to Volume nine Nyoraisho-bon, "Nirvana Sutra")
Those who regard "the Nirvana Sutra" as fundamental maintain that this paragraph in the sutra is explaining the benefits of the sutra and that the expression 'harvesting in fall for winter storage' means that those who have learned "the Nirvana Sutra" will have 'nothing more to learn,' just like Buddha's disciples who have received great benefits by learning from Buddha in the Lotus Sutra. Based on these grounds, supporters of "the Nirvana Sutra" argue that the original meaning of the paragraph in the sutra is that those who have not studied the sutra have something left to learn.
They also point out that if "the Lotus Sutra" was in fact the most fundamental sutra, it is difficult to understand why the unenlightened masses had to wait for "the Nirvana Sutra" for their religious salvation and that the teachings revealed in the Lotus Sutra, which is believed to provide everyone with the perfect vehicle for salvation, should have been able to save not only Buddha's disciples but the unenlightened masses as well.
In addition, the paragraph about harvesting in fall for winter storage appears only in the southern and northern editions of the Nirvana Sutra.
The following paragraph is found in the six-volume Nirvana Sutra translated by a Chinese Buddhist monk, Hokken:
Just as ordinary people stop all their worldly activities at night and start their work only when the sun rises, the masses can learn the correct teachings in broad daylight only when they have learned the eternal truths revealed in this great Nirvana Sutra at night after studying various sutras and practicing meditation. Mahayana sutras promised all people in the world religious salvation in the future, just as rain brings benefits to all farmers in summer. The Lotus Sutra enabled 8000 disciples of Buddha to achieve religious salvation, except for non believers of Buddhism.
(The 17 of Tobosatsu-bon (literally, chapter of dialogue of Bosatsu), Daihatsu Naion-gyo (A Chinese version of the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra) (also known as Hokken-bon (version translated by Hokken) or Rokkan-bon (the six-volume Nirvana Sutra))
As stated above, although the six-volume Nirvana Sutra translated by Hokken states that 'The Lotus Sutra enabled 8000 disciples of Buddha to achieve religious salvation,' neither the northern edition (translated by Dharmaraksana) nor the southern edition (compiled by making corrections to the six-volume edition and the northern edition) contains the statement that the Lotus Sutra taught 'Buddhist truths to the unenlightened masses, who will have nothing more to learn, just as farmers who have harvested crops in fall for winter storage have nothing more to do.'
Thus, the paragraph found in the 6-volume Nirvana Sutra places emphasis on the value of the Nirvana Sutra itself and mentions the success of the Lotus Sutra among Buddha's disciples only to explain why the Nirvana Sutra is so important.
As Chigi pointed out, "the Nirvana Sutra" is a re-exposition of the teachings that Buddha preached after he achieved nirvana. However, he did not simply repeat the same teachings in the Nirvana Sutra, but explained his previous teachings, including not only the four noble truths that lead to nirvana and the notion of emptiness but also "the Lotus Sutra" itself, from a higher perspective based on the nirvana principle.