Butsubachi (Buddhas punishment) (仏罰)

The term Butsubachi (Buddha's punishment) refers to punishment a person receives who violates the basic truth of the Buddha (Nyorai) 's enlightenment. It is often misunderstood by confusing this concept with punishment from God, and it is necessary to realize that Buddha does not punish. However, this is not a common interpretation in Buddhism as a whole (as referred to hereinafter).


In general, the term "punishment" refers to forcing hardship on a person who does not obey certain rules.

In the case of religion, it is said that there is punishment by God and punishment by Buddha as the "punishment" for the case of disobedience to its creed. In addition, common "penalties" and "sanctions" in Buddhism fall roughly into two categories as follows.

Punishment under original Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism
This was a sanction which was given to a person who violated the precepts of Buddhism, and there were various kinds of punishments ranging from the Tokira-zai Punishment, the lightest one to make a confession, and to the Harai-zai Punishment, the most serious one to be expelled from a religious group. Although it was not as serious as banishment from a religious group, there were other punishments such as removing the rights of priest for a certain period, or to be forced to live separately from other priests, and Manatta (マーナッタ, suspension for six days and nights). In addition, such sanctions as Bondan Punishment and Mokuhin Punishment were given in accordance with the category of the punishment. For example, Shanoku, who had taken care of the horse of Shakyamuni buddha before his entering into priesthood and became a disciple of Buddha, annoyed Shakyamuni buddha and other disciples so much as being called evil Shanoku, so that Shakyamuni buddha ordered Ananda to treat Shanoku with burafumadanda (ブラフマダンタ, Mokuhin, that is, not to talk with him).

The sins in Mahayana Buddhism
In the precepts of the Mahayana Buddhism, any serious sin was forgiven, in principle, by confession. However, in Japan, the Hinsui Punishment to expel from Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara) was given during the Nara period and the Heian period. In addition, Nyobon (sexual indulgence) was considered as a serious sin not only religiously but also administratively in the Edo period, and a person who committed it was displayed in public and exiled to a far island.

However, punishments for these were penalties or sanctions that were actually given by another person because of the violation of the precepts. Therefore, it did not correspond to the idea of "Butsubachi." Butsubachi does not mean punishment given by another person in reality, but the event which is revealed in one's real life as objective evidence caused by the violation of Slander of the True Dharma, that is, Hobo.

However, this term and interpretation of "Butsubachi" is not common in Buddhism as a whole as mentioned at the beginning, which was spread only by part of the schools belonging to the Hokke Sect line or believers of new religious groups, so quite a few sects deny these terms as false.

The interpretation of the schools of the Hokke Sect line

According to the interpretation of a part of the schools and groups of the Hokke Sect line, Buddhism explains the "punishments" in detail from the idea of Inga Oho (law of retributive justice), and Akka-ho which libels the True Dharma is explained in "Hoke-kyo" (the Lotus Sutra).

Hiyu hon No.3 (A Parable, chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra) 'If a person does not believe, but libels this sutra, he will completely lose Buddhahood.

Or he will also be frowned upon and doubted. You should listen to this person's payment for sin. There is a person who libels a sutra during Buddha's life or after its nirvana. He ridicules, hates, envies and blames a person who reads and writes sutras.
Listen to this person's payment of sin now again, his life will end and he will enter into the Big Eight Hell.'

Hosshi hon No.10 (the preacher, the tenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra) 'If an evil man always defames and swears Buddha in front of Buddha with a bad mind actually, for a long time, his sin would be lighter.
If a person libels lay and live-in believers who read the Hoke-kyo Sutra with a curse, his sin would be very heavy.'

Fugen Bosatsu Kanbotsu hon No.28 (The Period of the Law (Dharmaparyaya), the 28th chapter of the Lotus Sutra) 'If the person who sees a person who holds this sutra, he will be exposed his faults or evils. Either he is faithful or faithless, he will suffer from Hansen's disease in this world.
If a person ridicules this, in every reincarnation he should suffer from various and serious diseases such as; having teeth missing or spaced, ugly lips, a flat nose, hands and feet that are gnarled or deformed, eye squinting, body with a foul odor, skin boil, blood with pus, water in the belly, shortness of breath.'

In addition, it explains that there are four "punishments."

Sobachi punishment
- punishment generally received
Betsubachi punishment
- punishment received separately
Myobachi punishment
- punishment received individually
Kenbachi punishment
- punishment clearly received
While Sobachi punishment is general, Betsubachi punishment is individualistic, and while Myobachi punishment is introspective, Kenbachi punishment is extrospective.

As to these, Nichiren describes in "Shonin gonanji" (Persecutions Befalling the Sage) as 'The misfortunes such as horse-riding accident of Chikamasa OTA, Jiro Hyoenojo Tokitsuna NAGASAKI and Daishinbo might be the revealing the punishment of the Hoke-kyo sutra. There are four kinds of punishments of Sobachi, Betsubachi, Kenbachi, and Myobachi. Plague, mighty famine, inter-clan conflicts, and invasion from other countries in Japan are Shobachi. Diseases are Myobachi. The misfortunes of Ota and others are Betsubachi.'
In addition, he also describes in "Nichinyo gozen gohenji" (Reply to Nichinyo Gozen) as 'The plagues of last year and this year and the one in the last Shoka era in Japan were the worst in ninety generations of the emperor. I think this is because people are hostile to the saint in the country. This is why a dog that barks at a lion will be drawn and quartered and the head of Shura (timber chute) who eats the sun and the moon will be hurt. Two out of three of all living things in Japan have been already sick. Or half them have already died. The bodies of the other one of the ten are not sick but their minds are sick. Or the head may be hurt at dawn or in the evening. There are four kinds of punishments of Sobachi, Betsubachi, Kenbachi, and Myobachi. If people are hostile to a saint, Sobachi punishment will be effected all over the country. Or it will be spread in Shitenge (the four continents considered to be in the sea around Mt. Shumisen in Buddhism) or in Rokuyoku (the six desires caused by six organs in Buddhism) and Shizen (the four stages in Shikikai (a kind of world) in Buddhism). If people are hostile to a saint, they will become an enemy. The present plague in Japan is Sobachi.
It must have happened because it is hostile to the existence of the saint.'

In addition, as to the period of the phenomenon for this punishment, he described in "Shiju onfurumai Gosho" (On the Buddha's Behavior) as 'Within the one hundred days or one year, three years, seven years after exile and death penalties, inter-clan conflicts will occur as Jikaihongyakunan (trouble of inter-clan conflicts),' and in "Shishin gohon sho" (On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice) as 'The king Udaen disdains the Binzuru-sonja and goes to ruin within the seven years, and Soshu (Sagami province) will be attacked within one hundred days after the exile of Nichiren.'

Therefore, the schools of Hokke Sect line and religious groups which intend to succeed these Nichiren's words insist that the punishments exist at present and the reward and punishment for the person who libels the Hoke-kyo Sutra or Namu Myoho Renge-kyo Sutra and the person who admires it will be shown clearly in accordance with the logic in the Hoke-kyo Sutra.

However, the idea of "punishment" is different between people and some adopt a general interpretation as mentioned at the beginning.

In addition, the sect that believes in Nichiren's teaching in principle considers the minor precepts of Buddhism are rather harmful and prevent enlightenment in Mappo (Age of the Final Dharma), and requests to preserve Nichiren chants without slander, which is called Mappo-Mukai (no precepts).

The interpretations of other Buddhist sects

In the public mind, "Butsubachi" is generally thought as 'the punishment given by Buddha.'
But as mentioned above, Butsubachi is a punishment naturally given for violating the truth enlightened by Buddha, and is not given by Buddha or others.

Since there are various ideas of punishment in the Buddhist sects, it is difficult to explain the reason considering all ideas, but if we try to think of the reason, it is a general interpretation that the Buddha who has such a great capacity for mercy as Buddha and Nyorai including Shakyamuni buddha are said to proclaim that 'all living things are my children,' so those who are plenteous in mercy will not give punishment. Therefore, many sects do not have an idea of Butsubachi itself. (However, as mentioned above, attention should be paid to the fact that Butsubachi is the punishment given naturally because of the violation of truth enlightened by Buddha and is not given by Buddha and others even within the religious sects and groups which preach Butsubachi.

For example, Ryokan, a priest of the Soto sect who was also famous in story book, described that 'If you are sick, it is better to be sick, and if you are dying, it is better to die. This is good medicine by which you can escape from disease and death.'
The Jodo (Pure Land) sect preaches that even a person who killed other person can be reborn in gokuraku jodo (the Pure Land - of Amida Buddha) if he invokes nenbutsu (Buddhist prayer) and has a faith. Therefore, both have no idea of punishment. However, in Muryoju-kyo Bussetu Muryoju-kyo Sutra there is a description that a person who commits gogyaku (the five heinous deeds, a murder of father, mother, or priest, to hurt the body of Buddha, or to bring a conflict in the religious group) and a person who libels the True Dharma are excepted from the relief of the eighteenth vow among forty-eight vows.

In addition, according to the interpretation of many sects, Butsubachi is a warning that the bad things in religious life are caused by one's own "karma" and "Inga Oho" and that the Hokke-kyo Sutra must not be libeled. The Jodo sect interprets that a person should ask Tariki Hongan (salvation through the benevolence of Buddha) which originally means to entrust Buddha with all such bad phenomena and good phenomena and believe it securely.

In addition, the idea that a person is given Butsubachi by Inga Oho caused by bad behavior, has existed from ancient times in Japan. In the "Nihon genho zenaku ryoiki" (set of three books of Buddhist stories, written in the late 8th and early 9th century, usually referred to as the Nihon Ryoiki) there are some stories about a person who violated the teachings of Buddhism and got his deserts. In "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike), there is a tale that FUJIWARA no Moromichi, chief adviser to the Emperor, died of punishment from the God of the Hiyoshi-taisha Shrine because he had attacked Daishu (The monks residing in the zendo) of the Enryaku-ji Temple in ancient times (in those days when syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism was being established, the Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt.Hiei and the Hiyoshi-taisha Shrine on its foot were regarded as the same entity and the Butsubachi caused by his attack against priests was given in the form of punishment from the god of the Hiyoshi-taisha Shrine).

As in the Shitaihon (the Four Axioms) of "Nehan-gyo Sutra" (The Sutra of The Great Nirvana) there are descriptions that 'To break the truth and wisdom of the True Dharma and fall into more akudo (literally, 'bad way') lead to many affliction through several transmigrations of souls.' or 'The appearance of bad things (悪彰) are caused in order to relieve living things,' Butsubachi is generally regarded as a payment by their own sin which makes them notice it, and is not given by Buddha to a person who does not obey its teaching.

For these reasons, the agitations that people can be relieved only by a certain teaching and that the belief in other teachings causes punishment or Butsubachi, and enhancements of the self-expedient teaching are opposed and criticized as just ideological threats of cults.

[Original Japanese]