I HAVE carefully looked over your letter. In it you say that you were concerned about what teaching was best to propagate in the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law. And that when you encountered the instruction of the Sage Nichiren, and heard that one should propagate only the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, you resolved to become one of my disciples.
In particular you ask what the origins of the five seasonal festivals are, what they signify, and how one can correctly observe them. Well, I am unfamiliar with the details of this matter. I do, however, understand it in a general way, and it is said that there is a transmission handed down from the Great Teacher Kompon [Dengyō].
Broadly speaking, it is a custom practiced in both the True Word and Tendai schools. For specifics, I have explained the matter to Soya,1 so please talk with him the next chance you have.
First, when we consider the order of the five seasonal festivals, we find that they are festivals corresponding to the order of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.
The festival of the New Year corresponds to the character “myō,” and the Sun Goddess is honored as the guardian deity of the crops. The third day of the third month is the festival corresponding to the character “hō,” and the “dragon” is honored as the guardian deity. The fifth day of the fifth month is the festival corresponding to the character “ren,” and the “horse” is honored as the guardian deity. The seventh day of the seventh month is the festival corresponding to the character “ge,” and the “monkey” is honored as the guardian deity. The ninth day of the ninth month is the festival corresponding to the character “kyō,” and the “dog” is honored as the guardian deity.
Please look upon it in this way and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. There can then be no doubt about the words “peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences.”2
Sutra passages make it perfectly clear that all the heavenly beings are bound to diligently protect practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. The fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra says, “The heavenly beings day and night will for the sake of the Law constantly guard and protect them.”3 Again, it says, “The young sons of heavenly beings will wait on him and serve him. Swords and staves will not touch him and poison will have no power to harm him.”4 The “heavenly beings” refer to Brahmā, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four 375great heavenly kings, and others like them. The “Law” refers to the Lotus Sutra. The “young sons” refer to the seven luminaries, the twenty-eight constellations, Marīchi, and the like. The words “Those who join the battle are all in the front lines”5 correspond to the passage “Swords and staves will not touch him.”
These things are exceedingly important transmissions. Please be sure to think them over carefully. The sixth volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality.”6 And so, even when you commemorate the five seasonal festivals, simply chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and strive to attain the way. I will explain in detail on another occasion.
You also say that you became my disciple when you were told that the Lotus Sutra would surely spread in the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law. Entering into the relation of teacher and lay supporter is the result of a bond that bridges the three existences. Never seek the three benefits of sowing, maturing, and harvesting from anyone else. These golden words cannot possibly be wrong: “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers,”7 and “If one stays close to the teachers of the Law, one will speedily gain the way of enlightenment. By following and learning from these teachers one will see Buddhas as numerous as Ganges sands.”8
How could the person mentioned in the “Devadatta” chapter where it says, “In the place where they are born they will constantly hear this sutra,” refer to anyone but you? The reason is that the passage just before that says, “In future ages if there are good men or good women . . .” “Good men” means the laymen who uphold the Lotus Sutra. You should exert yourself in faith all the more!
With my deep respect,
The eleventh day of the first month
Reply to Akimoto
Sent from Hota in Awa Province