Never Disparaging ［常不軽菩薩・不軽菩薩］ (Skt Sadāparibhūta; Jpn Jōfukyō-bosatsu or Fukyō-bosatsu): A bodhisattva described in the “Never Disparaging” (twentieth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. According to the sutra, he lived after the death of a Buddha named Awesome Sound King, in the Middle Day of that Buddha’s teachings. Buddhism was then in decline, and arrogant monks held great authority. This bodhisattva deeply respected everyone, and his practice consisted of addressing all he met in the following manner: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you are all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood.” This statement is known as the twenty-four-character Lotus Sutra, because in Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation it consists of twenty-four characters.
The sutra describes his practice as follows: “This monk did not devote his time to reading or reciting the scriptures, but simply went about bowing to people.” Although people ridiculed him and attacked him with staves and stones, he regarded all people with utmost respect because of their innate potential to become Buddhas. Therefore he was dubbed Never Disparaging. Toward the end of his life he heard the Lotus Sutra that had been preached by the Buddha Awesome Sound King, and embraced it fully. As a result, he purified his six sense organs and extended his life span by “two hundred ten thousand million nayutas of years,” preaching the Lotus Sutra to countless millions of people. Those people who had slandered Bodhisattva Never Disparaging now followed him and took faith in the sutra, but due to their past offenses of harboring anger and grudges against him, for two hundred million kalpas they never encountered a Buddha, heard of the Law, or saw the community of monks. They languished in the hell of incessant suffering for one thousand kalpas. Eventually, however, after they had finished expiating their offenses, they once more encountered Never Disparaging who instructed them in supreme enlightenment. In the “Never Disparaging” chapter, Shakyamuni identifies Bodhisattva Never Disparaging as himself in a previous lifetime.
Nichiren (1222–1282) often cites the story of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging to illustrate the principle of attaining enlightenment through reverse relationship, or the connection that one forms with the correct teaching by opposing or slandering it. Nichiren often refers to Bodhisattva Never Disparaging as an example of the true spirit of bodhisattva practice. In his writing The Three Kinds of Treasure, he states: “The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being” (851–52).