TAKIŌ1 has to return to his home to see to the rethatching of his roof, so I have sent him home. I believe the letter from Āchārya Daishin has already informed you of the change of heart experienced by Saemon no Tayū.2
Item: Please convey my delight at receiving the priest’s robe sent by the lay priest Jūrō.3
Item: Recently a man has been sent here by Saburō Saemon4 who brings news that is deeply disturbing. Please inquire about the matter and find out all the details, and once you have done so, write and tell me what you have learned. Also, please inform Saemon of this as well.
I have heard nothing recently from those four persons, the lay priest of Kawanobe and the others,5 and I am quite worried. I wonder what has happened to them. Write and tell me details concerning each of them. The fate of these individuals is a very important matter, and from time to time I exhort the heavenly gods to take particular care of them. Please impress upon them strongly that they are certain to obtain some sign of benefit in their present life, not to mention in future existences. They must have faith in this.
Itō Hachirō Saemon6 is at present the constable of Shinano. At one time he was on the point of death, but my prayers restored him to life. At that time he sent word to the priest Myōshō promising that he would no longer be numbered among the Nembutsu believers. But, contrary to his word, he has joined the Nembutsu believers and True Word priests and has fallen into the hell of incessant suffering.
Noto-bō7 was actually a supporter of mine, but out of fear of what the world might do to him, or out of greed, he not only abandoned me but in fact became my enemy. And Shō-bō has done likewise.
Those people [the lay priest of Kawanobe and the others] are very important supporters of mine. But although I have prayed on their behalf so hard that my head was about to split, so far there has been no indication of my prayers being answered. It would seem that someone among them is wavering in faith. If one prays for a person who is not properly responsive in mind, it is like trying to light a fire on top of water, or to build a house in the empty air. Please convey these thoughts of mine to the four men. They should keep in mind that my prediction regarding the actions of the Mongol kingdom has come true. It will be no fault of Nichiren [if the prayer is not answered].
662If Chikugo-bō, Sammi, and Sotsu8 are not busy at the moment, tell them to come here as soon as possible. I have important doctrinal matters that I want to convey to them.
The large volume that includes the essential passages from such works as The Commentary on the Ten Stages Sutra, the True Word chart that Sado-bō9 has copied on the reverse side of his letter, and the other manuscripts copied from various sutras and treatises—I need all these items and they are not heavy, so please bring them with you.
I am out of paper, so I have written these requests on this one sheet.
The twenty-first day of the seventh month
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu in 1276, and sent it to Āchārya Ben, or Nisshō, later one of the Daishonin’s six senior priest-disciples. A lack of paper at Minobu forced him to write as much as possible on one sheet of paper. This letter conveys his care for those followers in Kamakura who, while he survived the attempted execution at Tatsunokuchi and was subsequently exiled to Sado, fought against wholesale persecution.
It contains no doctrinal teachings, but a list of requests and inquiries for Nisshō to follow up on. Concerned in particular about four individuals he has not recently heard from, he asks Nisshō to seek them out and send him word about their condition. They will definitely receive benefit in this lifetime, he says, indicating that he is praying for them earnestly. But because there has been no sign so far of his prayers being answered, “It would seem that someone among them is wavering in faith” or “not properly responsive in mind,” he writes. He requests further information on an ambiguous report he received, and asks that a message be conveyed to some other disciples to come to Minobu to receive a doctrinal teaching from him. He also requests copies of various reference materials.
1. Probably an attendant of Nisshō, one of the six senior priests designated by the Daishonin. At the time, Nisshō devoted himself to propagation in Kamakura.
2. Āchārya Daishin was a disciple of the Daishonin. Saemon no Tayū refers to Ikegami Yasumitsu, who held a post in the government’s Office of Construction and Repairs and was a loyal follower of Ryōkan of the True Word Precepts school. He vehemently opposed his two sons’ belief in the Daishonin’s teaching for over twenty years and disowned his elder son twice, in 1275 and in 1277. In 1278, however, he finally converted to the Daishonin’s teaching.
3. Little is known about Jūrō except that he was a follower of the Daishonin.
4. Shijō Kingo, one of the Daishonin’s leading samurai followers who lived in Kamakura.
5. Followers of the Daishonin in Kamakura. The lay priest of Kawanobe is thought to have been imprisoned in an earthen cave during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution of 1271.
6. Itō Hachirō Saemon was the steward of Itō District in Izu, where the Daishonin was exiled from the fifth month of 1261 through the second month of 1263. Learning of the Daishonin’s presence a month 663after his arrival, the steward had the Daishonin summoned in order that he might offer prayers for his recovery from a serious illness. The steward regained his health, and in appreciation offered the Daishonin a treasured statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. Regarding Myōshō who is mentioned later, little is known about him except that he was a disciple of the Daishonin.
7. Noto-bō, and Shō-bō, who appears in the next sentence, were disciples of the Daishonin who abandoned their faith and eventually turned against him.
8. Disciples of the Daishonin and natives of Shimōsa Province. Chikugo-bō refers to Nichirō, one of the six senior priests named by the Daishonin, Sammi to Sammi-bō Nichigyō, who was noted for his eloquence and learning, and Sotsu to Nikkō, the second son of the lay priest Ōta Jōmyō, whose name is written with a different Chinese character than that of Nikkō to whom the Daishonin transferred his teachings.
9. Nikō, one of the six senior priests.