“If there are living beings who are able to hear this sutra, they will gain great profit. Why? Because if they can practice it, then without fail they will quickly gain unsurpassed enlightenment. As for those living beings who are unable to hear it, one should know that they will lose great profit, for though immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable asamkhya kalpas* may pass, they will in the end fail to gain unsurpassed enlightenment. Why? Because they will not know about the great direct way to enlightenment, but will travel perilous byways beset by numerous hindrances and trials.” (LSOC, 20-21)
*an immeasurable period of time, approximately 1051 x 16 million years!
Picture by AZNcelly at deviantart.com
There may naturally be some people who remain totally ignorant about Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's daimoku, and consequently are unable to receive the great benefits, but I think it’s interesting that the sutra states “those living beings who are unable to hear it” because this strikes right to the heart of our faith in Nichiren Buddhism. In addition to those that are naturally ignorant of the sutra, there will also be those that have listened to it or heard about it, and yet they fail to truly hear it, they fail to embrace it within their lives and they may even actively slander this profound teaching.
Shakyamuni reiterates this point later in “The Teacher of the Law” chapter, stating:
“[I]f there are those who will listen to this sutra, then they are capable of practicing the bodhisattva way in a fitting manner. If among the living beings who seek the buddha way there are those who see or hear this Lotus Sutra, and who, having heard it, believe, understand, and embrace it, then you should know that these people can draw near to supreme perfect enlightenment.” (LSOC10, p204)
And, in “The Doctrines of Three Thousand Realms”, Nichiren writes “Living being whose ears are touched by the daimoku are living beings who will gain merit" (WND-2, p88)