YOUR letter indicates that you have forwarded an unlined robe made of thread spun from bark fiber, a gift from the wife of your elder brother. It also notes that Jirō Hyōe of Owari1 passed away on the twenty-second day of the sixth month.
In the Buddha’s Successors Sutra,2 the Buddha describes how his teachings will be handed down in the years following his demise. In this work, the Buddha explains that in the thousand years following his death, the period known as the Former Day of the Law, he will send his envoys one after another to transmit the teachings.
The first of these successors will be the Venerable Mahākāshyapa, who will transmit the doctrine for twenty years. The second will be the Venerable Ānanda, who will transmit it for twenty years. The third will be Shānavāsa, who will transmit it for twenty years, and so on down to the twenty-third successor, the Venerable Āryasimha.
The Buddha, speaking of Shānavāsa, the third successor, made the following prediction. The name Shānavāsa refers to a type of robe. A miraculous event will take place, for this person will be born wearing a robe.
Of the six paths of existence, persons born into the first five, from the realm of hell to that of human beings, are all invariably born naked. Only those who are born into the sixth path, that of heavenly beings, are born wearing a robe. Thus, no matter what kind of sage or worthy person one is destined to be, so long as one is born as a human being, one invariably comes into the world naked. Even Bodhisattva Maitreya, who will succeed Shakyamuni in the future as a Buddha,3 was born in this way, to say nothing of other types of persons.
Despite this fact, however, this man Shānavāsa was born wearing a wonderful robe called shāna. This robe of his was not stained by blood or other impurity. It was like a lotus flower that grows up out of a muddy pond, or the wings of a mandarin duck that are not wet by the water.
Moreover, as Shānavāsa grew older and larger, the robe bit by bit expanded in size. In winter it was thick, in summer thin; in spring it was green in color, but turned white in autumn. Since Shānavāsa was a man of wealth, he lacked for nothing, and in time he came to fulfill all the predictions that the Buddha had made concerning him. Thus he entered the Buddhist Order and became a disciple of the Venerable Ānanda. At that time, this robe that he had been wearing changed into monk’s robes of five-, seven-, and nine-strip widths.
The Buddha explained these 766wondrous events by saying that innumerable kalpas ago, in the far distant past, this man had been a merchant. In company with five hundred other merchants, he set out by ship upon the great ocean in search of trade. At that time on the seaside there was a man suffering from a grave illness. The man was a pratyekabuddha, a person worthy of high esteem, but perhaps because of some deed in his past, he had fallen victim to illness. His body was emaciated, his mind distracted, and he was covered with filth. The merchant, taking pity on the man, nursed his illness with great care and brought him back to health. Washing away the filth, the merchant placed a robe of coarse plant fiber around the sage.
The latter, moved to joy, said, “You have aided me and covered the shame of my body. I promise you that I will wear this robe in this existence and in existences to come.” Then the man at last entered nirvana.
Because of the merit gained by this act, during countless kalpas in the past, each time that the former merchant was reborn in the realms of human or heavenly beings, this robe was always wrapped around his body and never left him.
In a time to come, explained the Buddha, after he himself has passed away, this man will be reborn as a sage named Shānavāsa and will become the third successor to the teachings. He will build a great temple at Mount Urumanda in the kingdom of Mathurā and will labor for twenty years, converting countless persons and propagating the teachings of the Buddha.
Thus, as the Buddha made clear, all the joys and wondrous events associated with this monk named Shānavāsa came about as a result of this robe that he gave to the sick man.
I, Nichiren, am a man of the country of Japan in the southern continent of Jambudvīpa. This country is a small, faraway island nation situated in the midst of the ocean some two hundred thousand ri or more to the east of the country where the Buddha made his appearance in the world. Moreover, 2,227 years have gone by since the Buddha passed away. The people of India and China no doubt look upon the people of this country of Japan much as the people of Japan look upon the inhabitants of the island of Ōshima off the Izu Peninsula or the Ezo people who reside in the eastern part of Mutsu.4
I was born in Japan in the province of Awa. The son of commoner parents, I left my family, shaved my head, and put on clerical robes. At that time I was determined to make use of this present lifetime to plant the seeds of Buddhahood and to do what I could to remove myself from the realm of birth and death. My aims being the same as all other people of the time, I trusted in Amida Buddha, and from the time I was a child I recited his name. But as a result of some minor affair, I came to have doubts about the efficacy of this procedure. Therefore I conceived the following resolve.
I thought that I would try to acquaint myself with all the various Buddhist sutras that have been transmitted to Japan, as well as with the treatises of the bodhisattvas and the commentaries written by the teachers of the doctrine. I also considered that there are many different schools of Buddhism such as the Dharma Analysis Treasury, Establishment of Truth, Precepts, Dharma Characteristics, Three Treatises, Flower Garland, True Word, and Lotus Tendai schools,5 as well as the Zen and Pure Land schools. Though I could not acquaint myself with all the details of doctrine associated with each school, I felt that I would like to learn something of their essentials.
Therefore, for a period of some twenty years, from the time I was 767twelve or sixteen until I was thirty-two,6 I traveled from province to province, from temple to temple, visiting Kamakura, Kyoto, Mount Hiei, Onjō-ji, Mount Kōya, and Shitennō-ji and studying their doctrines. At that time I became aware of one very strange thing.
When we approach the subject with our limited mental powers, we tend to feel that the Buddhist teachings represent a single truth. We believe that from whatever angle one may approach that truth, if one applies one’s mind to the matter, studies it, and truly desires to achieve success, one will be able to break away from the realm of birth and death. But in fact if one approaches the Buddhist teachings and practices them incorrectly, then one is likely to fall into the great pit known as slander of the Law.
We speak of the ten evil acts and the five cardinal sins, but someone who slanders the Law is worse than one who day and night kills, steals, engages in sexual misconduct, lies, or commits others of the ten evil acts, or worse than an evil man who murders his parents or carries out others of the five cardinal sins. There may be sages and worthy men, persons who have become priests and nuns, who scrupulously observe all the two hundred and fifty precepts and store up in their minds the eighty thousand teachings. They may go through their entire lives without committing a single wrong act, may be looked upon as Buddhas by other people, and may be convinced that they themselves could never fall into the evil paths of existence. And yet they fall into hell more certainly than do the perpetrators of the ten evil acts or the five cardinal sins. For long ages they dwell in the great citadel of the Avīchi hell and cannot find their way out.
By way of an analogy, let us suppose that there is a man who, thinking to make his way in the world, enters the service of his sovereign. Though he commits no outright fault, there is a certain lack of care in his thinking, and from this arise errors in his behavior. He himself is not aware that he has offended, and his companions do not look on his actions as particularly strange. In the presence of the ruler’s consort he is guilty of no overt misdeed, and yet somehow his behavior just naturally tends to be faulty. If such a man once arouses the suspicion of his sovereign, he will find himself blamed for greater error than an outright plotter of rebellion. And if he himself falls into erroneous ways, then his parents, his brothers, and his followers likewise will be led into errors that are by no means trifling.
The crime of slandering the Law is one that the perpetrator himself is not aware of, and those around him do not look upon it as a fault. All think that so long as the person is devoting himself to the Buddhist teachings, he is to be regarded with respect. Thus both the person himself, as well as the disciples and lay followers who support him, all in the end fall into the hell of incessant suffering.
Such was the case with the monks known as Superior Intent and Shore of Suffering. They scrupulously observed the two hundred and fifty precepts and never once violated any of the three thousand rules of conduct, and yet they fell into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering, and no term was set for their release. Moreover, the disciples and lay supporters who had gathered around them, in numbers greater than the dust particles of the land, likewise fell into hell, where they suffered torment along with their teachers.
These persons had had no other thought in their minds but to practice good deeds for the sake of their future existence. And yet they met with misfortunes of this kind!
768Having realized these things, I made a rough examination of the sutras and treatises, and came to the conclusion that Japan at the present time is in quite a similar situation. Since we are living in a latter age, there are imperfections in the way the affairs of government are conducted and the times are fraught with peril. But in Japan, unlike the case in other countries, the Buddhist teachings are widely propagated and we might suppose that a condition of relative peace and order would prevail. In fact, however, although the Buddhist teachings are widely propagated, we find that the age is one of marked decline and that there are many persons who fall into the evil paths of existence.
The reason is that although in Japan we find more Buddhist halls and pagodas than we would in the lands of India and China, the great majority of these are halls dedicated to Amida. In addition, each family fashions a wooden image of Amida Buddha or makes a painting of him, and each person recites the Nembutsu sixty thousand or eighty thousand times. Moreover, even in the eyes of the most ignorant persons it is considered laudable to abandon all thought of other Buddhas and to fix one’s hopes upon the western region of Amida. Even wise men all agree that such conduct is admirable and join in praising it.
Moreover, in the reign of Emperor Kammu, the fiftieth sovereign, a sage known as the Great Teacher Kōbō was born in Japan. He studied and introduced from China the new and unusual teachings of the True Word school, served as a teacher to Emperors Heizei, Saga, and Junna, and founded the temples of Tō-ji and Mount Kōya. In addition, the sages known as the Great Teacher Jikaku and the Great Teacher Chishō studied and spread abroad the teachings of the same school, propagating them at Mount Hiei and Onjō-ji, until all the temples throughout Japan came to be centers of these same True Word teachings. Even today the True Word doctrines are practiced, bells are tinkled, and prayers are offered up for the courtier and warrior families. This is done by the superintendents in charge of Nikai-dō, Ōmi-dō, and Wakamiya.7 Such prayers were relied upon in earlier times, and they are likewise relied upon by the sovereigns of our present age, who look on them as equal in importance to the pillars of a house, to the sun and moon in the heavens, to a bridge across a river or a ship to carry one over the sea.
Again, in the case of the Zen school, observers of the precepts have been appointed to positions of honor in Kenchō-ji and other Zen temples, where they are treated with greater respect than people’s own parents and relied upon more fervently than the gods themselves. As a result, ordinary people all bow their heads before them and join hands in reverent salute.
In an age such as this, we find that for some reason, strange occurrences take place in the heavens, comets trailing across the sky to east and west, or there are prodigies of the earth, the great earth heaving as though it were a ship on the ocean that was encountering fierce winds and was being overturned by huge waves. Strong winds blow, parching the plants and trees, famines occur year after year, plagues and diseases arise month after month, and terrible droughts dry up all the rivers and ponds, the paddies and farm fields.
In this way the three calamities and the seven disasters have continued for several decades on end, and half the people have been wiped out. Those who remain are parted from their parents, their brothers and sisters, or their wives and children, and cry out in voices no less pitiful than those of autumn insects. Family after family has 769been scattered and destroyed like plants and trees broken down by the snow of winter.
And when we examine the sutras and treatises and ask why these things should happen, we find the Buddha predicting that when people slander the Lotus Sutra and fail to heed his words, the country where this takes place will suffer in this way. And this prediction of the Buddha has been fulfilled without the slightest deviation.
Then, in a spirit of doubt, I said to myself, are there really persons in Japan who slander the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha? And I also said, given perhaps that there were a few persons who slander them, the majority might believe in them.
And yet, as I have said, here in Japan everyone constructs halls to Amida Buddha and recites the Nembutsu. And when I search for the source of these practices, I find that they spring from the pronouncements of three men, the Meditation Master Tao-ch’o, the Reverend Shan-tao, and the Honorable Hōnen. They are the originators of the Pure Land school and the teachers of the people of today.
When these three men spread the practice of the Nembutsu, they declared that “not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood”8 by practices other than this, that “not even one person in a thousand”9 can be saved, and that one should “discard, close, ignore, and abandon”10 all other teachings. This means that those who put their trust in Amida Buddha should cast aside all other sutras, all other Buddhas, all deities, and address Amida Buddha alone, repeating the words Namu-Amida-butsu [Homage to Amida Buddha].
In particular, these men urge people to abandon the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha. And since that is easy enough to do, first one person and then another, never stopping to consider, does so. First one person goes along with these teachings, then ten thousand do so. Ten thousand do so, and then the whole population, from the ruler and his great ministers on down to the common people, all do so without exception. And thus, contrary to what one might expect, the people in this country of Japan have become enemies of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra.
Shakyamuni Buddha has declared, “Now this threefold world is all my domain, and the living beings in it are all my children. Now this place is beset by many pains and trials. I am the only person who can rescue and protect others.”11 For this reason, Shakyamuni acts as the sovereign for all the living beings in this country of Japan, as their teacher, and as their parent.
The seven reigns of the heavenly deities, the five reigns of the earthly deities, and the ninety reigns of human rulers of Japan12—all these deities and rulers have been followers of Shakyamuni Buddha, to say nothing of the retainers of these deities and rulers. All the land of this present-day country of Japan, its mountains and rivers, its oceans, its plants and trees are all the treasures of Shakyamuni Buddha. There is not a single jot of them that belongs to the Buddhas of other worlds such as Medicine Master or Amida. Moreover, the heavenly deities, the earthly deities, and the ninety reigns of human sovereigns of Japan, along with the common people, the cows and horses, and in fact every living being that is born, is a child of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. In addition, the fact that the heavenly and earthly deities, human rulers, and the common people of Japan can make the proper distinctions regarding heaven and earth, water and fire, parents, sovereign, men and women, wives and children, black and white, is due entirely to the fact that Shakyamuni 770Buddha, the lord of teachings, has been their teacher. It is in no way due to the teachings of any of the other Buddhas such as Medicine Master or Amida.
Therefore we owe a great debt of gratitude to this Shakyamuni Buddha, a debt more weighty than the great earth, broader than the sky, and higher than the heavens. When it comes to such a Buddha as this, both sovereigns, ministers, and common people should honor him more highly than they do their own fathers or mothers, should pay him greater reverence than they pay to the gods. And if they do that much, then even if they should commit some grave offense, heaven will protect them and will not cast them aside, and the earth will not display anger toward them.
Nowadays, however, from the ruler on down to the common people, everyone builds Amida halls and enshrines images of Amida Buddha in them as the object of devotion. This is the reason, it seems, why heaven and earth display their anger. Suppose, for example, that persons in this country of Japan should feel themselves attracted to the rulers of China or Koryŏ. If they then proceeded to turn their backs upon the ruler of Japan, they could not expect to escape harm for long. But now all the people in Japan behave in this very manner. They feel themselves attracted to Amida Buddha, the sovereign of the Western Paradise, and this leads them to turn their backs upon Shakyamuni Buddha, the sovereign of their own country. That is the reason, in my opinion, that the gods who protect this country of Japan are moved to anger.
The people of this country give all their thought to fashioning images of Amida Buddha made of gold, silver, or bronze, or making wooden or painted images, and pay reverence to them. When they make copies of the Lotus Sutra or images of Shakyamuni Buddha, these are done merely in sumi ink, or if the statues are of wood, they have no gold leaf on them, and they are placed in crude, grass-thatched buildings. It is as though one were to pay elaborate attention to a perfect stranger, or show great respect for one’s wife and children while neglecting one’s own parents.
And then there is the case of the True Word school. This school is honored by persons from the ruler on down to the common people, looked up to as though it were the sun and moon and treasured like some sort of precious jewel. The doctrines of this school declare that in comparison to the Mahāvairochana Sutra, the Lotus Sutra is of second- or third-rate importance,13 and that Shakyamuni Buddha is a mere retainer to the Thus Come One Mahāvairochana.14
These teachings were spread by Kōbō, Jikaku, and Chishō, and even now, some four hundred years or more later, they are taught in the temples of Mount Hiei, Tō-ji, and Onjō-ji, and by learned men all over Japan.
Then there is the Zen school, which claims that the true and correct teaching represents a “separate transmission outside the sutras.” The Lotus and other sutras belong to the category of written teachings. They are compared to a finger pointing at the moon, or a boat after one has crossed the water. One no longer needs the boat once one has reached the farther shore, or the finger once one has seen the moon, say the Zen teachers.
The people of this school are not aware that they are slandering the Law, but simply continue to hand down the teachings as they have received them, as though it were a quite natural thing to do. But in fact, such declarations are an insult to Shakyamuni Buddha and a source of great error regarding the Lotus Sutra. They cause the people of this country to commit offenses that 771are graver than the five cardinal sins, yet they do not even know they are offending.
These grave offenses continue to pile up until we have cases like that of the eighty-second sovereign, known as the Retired Emperor of Oki, and the Retired Emperor of Sado.15 Not only was their power wrested from them by Yoshitoki of Kamakura in Sagami Province, whose family had not even been among their retainers in generations past, but they were banished to their respective islands, where they were left to lament. In time they died in their island exiles and their souls turned into angry ghosts and fell into the region of hell.
The great ministers and other officials who served under them had their heads cut off or perished in water or fire, their wives and children worried themselves to death, or their wives became the wives of commoners. Over fifty years have passed since then, and their descendents are treated like members of the common people.
All of this came about because they put their trust in the True Word and Nembutsu teachings and acted as implacable enemies of the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha. Because they did so, they were cast aside by the Sun Goddess, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, and the other deities of heaven and earth, and by the three treasures of Buddhism in the ten directions. While alive, they were attacked by those who should have been their followers, and after death, they fell into hell.
Moreover, after the center of power shifted to the east16 and the years went by, many of the leaders of the True Word school who had caused the sovereigns of the country to perish made their way to Kamakura, where they ingratiated themselves with the men of the Kamakura shogunate. Because they had originally been priests of high standing in their original areas, they were able to practice various deceptions to gain favor and to have themselves appointed superintendents of various temples in Kamakura. In addition, the Nembutsu priests, taking advantage of their position as counselors to those in power, became chief priests of Daibutsu-den, Chōraku-ji, Gokuraku-ji,17 and other temples, while persons of the Zen school came to be respected as chief priests of Jufuku-ji, Kenchō-ji, and other temples.
Thus in Kamakura offenses were committed that were a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million times graver than that which brought about the fate of the Retired Emperor of Oki. And because of these grave offenses, the Sun Goddess, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, and the other deities of heaven and earth, along with Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions joined in meting out punishment. For this reason, a sage of a neighboring country, realizing the wishes of these deities and Buddhas, instructed its great king,18 who was engaged in rallying soldiers from countless different countries, to inflict punishment upon the ruler, the high ministers, and the common people of Japan. I, Nichiren, through my study of the sutras and treatises, have already predicted that this would happen.
But if I were to state these predictions honestly, then the ruler of the country would grow angry and the common people would refuse to listen to me. Not only that, but the Nembutsu believers, the Zen and Precepts priests, and the True Word teachers would undoubtedly become enraged and in their resentment would speak slanderously of me to the ruler and his ministers. I myself would face great difficulties, and my disciples, my lay supporters, and those who showed me the slightest degree of sympathy would be accused of crimes. My safety would 772be endangered, and the peril would perhaps extend even to my life.
Unless I had some astute plan in mind, it seemed best to remain silent and not to speak out. And yet in the classics of non-Buddhist literature it is said that if a worthy man knows that the world faces destruction and fails to speak out, then he is a mere toady, a sycophant, a person with no sense of obligation. Therefore the worthy men Kuan Lung-feng and Pi Kan spoke out fearlessly on matters that concerned the safety of the nation, even though it meant that Kuan Lung-feng’s head was cut off and Pi Kan’s breast torn open.
Turning to Buddhist literature, we find that the Buddha has warned that, if a person sees an enemy of the Lotus Sutra but fails to speak out against him because of fear of the world, then he is a foe of Shakyamuni Buddha. No matter how wise or good he may be, he will assuredly fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Such a person is like a son who sees someone about to kill his parents but fails to warn them, or a minister who sees someone bringing ruin on his sovereign but, fearful of the world, does not speak out in reprimand. Such behavior the Buddha prohibits.
For this reason, Bodhisattva Āryadeva, who was an envoy of the Buddha, was killed by a follower of the non-Buddhist teachings; the Venerable Āryasimha had his head cut off by King Dammira; the Chinese priest Chu Tao-sheng was driven into exile in a mountain in Su-chou; and the priest Fa-tao was branded on the face. All these men met with such fates because they honored the Buddhist teachings and did not quail before the authority of the ruler.
Thus in the reign of a worthy ruler, if there is a sincere desire to strengthen the Buddhist teachings, then the ruler will give heed to both sides of a debate and will take as his teachers those wise men who put forth the most compelling arguments. In this way the nation will be assured of peace and security. So we see that the rulers of the Ch’en and Sui dynasties in China summoned the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai Chih-che and set him to debating with the leaders of the various schools of northern and southern Buddhism,19 and Emperors Kammu and Saga in Japan arranged for the Reverend Saichō to debate with fourteen Buddhist leaders of Nara, the southern capital.20 Depending upon who was the winner in such debates, the rulers then established temples and set about propagating the correct teaching.
But other rulers such as Kings Mihirakula and Udayana in India, Emperors Wu-tsung and Ch’in-tsung in China,21 and Emperors Kimmei and Yōmei in Japan22 paid honor to evil spirits or non-Buddhist teachings, were followers of the Taoist priests, or worshipers of the gods. For that reason, they were implacable enemies of Shakyamuni Buddha and brought destruction upon themselves and disquiet to the world. During their reigns Buddhist sage priests encountered great difficulties.
Japan has by now become a country in which slanders of the correct teaching are taking place to a large degree, and it would appear that it is ripe for invasion by foreign lands.
If one is aware of this fact but fails to speak out about it, then although one may enjoy peace and security in one’s present existence, one will surely fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering in the existence to come. On the other hand, if, out of fear of that fate, one does speak out, one must be prepared to suffer exile or the death penalty.
With this in mind, in the time of the Bunnō era  I submitted a petition to the late lay priest of Saimyō-ji. However, my advice was not heeded. 773At that time the Nembutsu believers, hearing of what I had done, conspired with their followers in high and low positions and attacked me with intent to murder, though they did not succeed in their objective.
[The regent Hōjō] Nagatoki, the governor of Musashi, who was a son of the lay priest of Gokuraku-ji temple23 and aware of his father’s feelings in the matter, quite unreasonably had me exiled to the province of Izu. As anyone can see, the result is that the lay priest of Gokuraku-ji, Nagatoki, and their relatives perished.
Sometime thereafter, I was summoned back from exile. Once more I spoke out as the sutra dictates, this time with more force than ever, and once more, on the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun’ei , I was exiled, this time to the island province of Sado. As I predicted at the time I incurred official displeasure, the members of the ruling clan who condemned me to exile then fell to quarreling among themselves.24 Perhaps because of fear of this situation, I was recalled from exile once again. However, my counsels were not heeded and the common people more and more gave themselves up to ill will.
Though one may risk one’s life in offering admonitions, if the rulers of the nation do not heed them, then there can be no doubt that the nation is destined for destruction. However, if the rulers fail to take heed even after one has pointed out their errors, then the fault does not lie with the admonisher. With this thought in mind, I left Kamakura in Sagami Province on the twelfth day of the fifth month in the eleventh year of Bun’ei . From the seventeenth day of the sixth month of that same year I have been residing deep in the mountains here, and for five years now have not ventured a hundred meters beyond the gate.
I come originally from the province of Awa. A steward in the province, Tōjō Saemon-no-jō Kagenobu, spurred on by the lay priest of Gokuraku-ji, the lay priest Tōji Saemon,25 and all the Nembutsu believers, had from time to time brought lawsuits against me. In the end, he launched hostilities against me,26 and thereafter the supporters of the lay priest of Gokuraku-ji succeeded in twisting the law so that the area of Tōjō Kagenobu’s jurisdiction was closed to me and I was not allowed to enter it. Hence it has been many years since I have been able to visit the graves of my father and mother.
In addition, I have twice incurred the displeasure of the rulers of the country. The second time, it was formally announced that I would be condemned to exile in a distant region, though in private the word went out that I was to be beheaded. On the twelfth day of the ninth month, at the hour of the ox [1:00 to 3:00 a.m.], I was led to Tatsunokuchi in Kamakura to be executed. Then for some reason or other an object like a moon came flying up from the direction of Enoshima and hung over the executioner’s head. He was too terrified to carry out his task, and meanwhile various circumstances developed, so that that night I escaped being put to death.
Later, after I had been exiled to the province of Sado, there was another attempt to behead me, but as I have stated earlier, contention broke out among the parties in Kamakura and a messenger was hurriedly sent to Sado, so I escaped beheading. In the end I was pardoned, and now live alone in the mountains.
When I was in the province of Sado, I lived in a graveyard called Tsukahara, at a place between the meadows and the mountains that was far removed from human habitation. I lived in a small hut built with four posts. The roof boards did not shut out the sky, 774and the walls were crumbling. Rain came in as though there were no roof at all, and the snow piled up inside. There was no image of the Buddha, and no trace of matting or other floor covering. But I set up the figure of Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, that I have carried with me from times past, and held the Lotus Sutra in my hand, and with a straw coat around me and a straw hat on my head, I managed to live there. Four years passed, during which no one came to visit and no one brought me food. I was like Su Wu, held captive for nineteen years in the land of the northern barbarians, wearing a straw coat and eating snow.
And now I have lived for five years in this present mountain home. To the north is Mount Minobu, like a ladder reaching to the heavens. To the south is Takatori, like Mount Kukkutapāda;27 to the west, Shichimen, like Iron Gate Barrier;28 and to the east, Mount Tenshi, which is like the crown prince to Mount Fuji’s emperor. These four mountains are ranged around like tall folding-screens.
To the north is a large river called Haya, swift as an arrow. To the south is a river called Hakiri, which can tumble huge rocks along as though they were tree leaves. To the east the Fuji River flows from north to south with a force like a thousand halberds thrusting forward. Along its course is a waterfall called the Falls of Minobu, like a strip of white cloth dangling from the sky.
In the midst of these mountains and rivers is a narrow plot of land where Nichiren has his dwelling. It is so deep in the mountains that even at noon one cannot see the sun, and at night there is no moon to compose poems to. On the mountain peaks monkeys like those of the Pa Gorges29 in China chatter away, while in the valleys the sound of the river waves is like the pounding of drums. The ground is strewn with countless large stones, and the mountains are made of nothing but rocks and gravel.
I am hated by the rulers of the country, and none of the common people come to visit me. In winter the trails are clogged with snow, and in summer they are overgrown with grass. Far off I hear the sad crying of the deer, and the cicadas make a din in my ears. No one comes to visit me, and it is hard for me to sustain life. I have no robes in which to clothe myself, and therefore you can imagine how welcome was the gift of the robe that you sent.
Even those who have known me or heard of me in the past no longer take pity on me, and the disciples and hired hands that have been with me up to now have all deserted me. How amazing it is, therefore, that someone like you, whom I have never even heard of or seen, should display such kindness! I cannot help wondering if you are not a reincarnation of my departed parents, or perhaps a manifestation of the ten demon daughters!
In the reign of Emperor Tai-tsung of the T’ang dynasty in China there was a military leader named Li Ju-hsien, the son of a man known as the Tumbleweed General.30 Li Ju-hsien was commanded by the emperor to attack the barbarian region of the north, but his force of several hundred thousand mounted soldiers was overwhelmed by the barbarians. Li Ju-hsien was taken prisoner and spent the following forty years in the barbarian land. During that time he took a wife and she bore him children. According to the custom of the barbarian land, a captive who was taken alive was obliged to wear garments of hide and a sash of felt. Only on the first day of the first month was Li Ju-hsien permitted to put on Chinese robes and hat. Thus, once every year he recalled his homeland and wept in his bitterness and longing.
Later, when the T’ang armies 775marched forth and T’ang troops attacked the barbarian region, Li seized an opportunity to steal away, abandoning his wife and children among the barbarians and fleeing. But the T’ang troops took him captive as though he had been one of the barbarians and were about to behead him.
Eventually he was brought before the ruler, Emperor Te-tsung, but no matter how he pleaded, the emperor refused to listen, and he was condemned to exile in the southern region of Wu and Yüeh.
Li Ju-hsien lamented his fate, saying, “I am not permitted to go forward and journey to my native region of Liang-yüan, nor am I allowed to retire and join my wife and children in the barbarian land.” He had abandoned his wife and children among the barbarians, he was unable to see his homeland in China again, and then he was exiled to a quite different region. He had shown the utmost loyalty, yet ended by lamenting in this way.
I, Nichiren, have done likewise. I spoke out because I thought I could help my native country of Japan. But now I am forced to live apart from the province where I was born and the province where I was exiled. For some time now I have secluded myself deep in this mountain, my fate much like that of Li Ju-hsien. I have no wife and family, either in my native region or in the land where I was exiled, and on that score I need not lament as he did. But I cannot help thinking about the grave of my father and mother and wondering how the people I used to know are faring.
There is one thing, however, that makes me happy. The warriors, true to their training, took the lead in crossing the Uji and Seta rivers31 in the cause of their lord, and, though many of them may have perished, their names will be known in ages to come.
In the cause of the Lotus Sutra, I have repeatedly been driven from my dwelling and faced armed attack, and I have suffered wounds on my hand. My disciples have been killed, I have twice been exiled to distant regions, and once I was almost beheaded. All this I bore solely for the sake of the Lotus Sutra.
In the Lotus Sutra the Buddha states that some two thousand, two hundred and more years after his passing, in the last five-hundred-year period, when efforts are made to propagate this sutra throughout the land of Jambudvīpa, the heavenly devil will take possession of people and attempt to prevent the dissemination of the sutra. It will happen then that those who have faith in the sutra will be cursed and attacked, driven from one place to another, and perhaps even killed. At that time, those who stand in the vanguard will win benefit as great as though they had given offerings to the Buddhas of the three existences and the ten directions. And the Buddha has also promised that he will transfer to such persons the benefits resulting from his own trials and ascetic practices. (I have summarized the meaning of the sutra passages.)
In the past there was a bodhisattva named Never Disparaging who worked to propagate the Lotus Sutra. Monks and nuns who were outstanding in wisdom and eminent monks who observed the two hundred and fifty precepts gathered and conspired with laymen and laywomen to curse and beat Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. But because he showed no weakening of his resolve and went on spreading the teachings, in the end he became a Buddha. The person who formerly was Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is now Shakyamuni Buddha.
The eminent monks and others who envied and attacked him all fell into the Avīchi hell for a period of a thousand kalpas. Those persons had recited 776the Meditation Sutra, the Amida Sutra, and several thousand other sutras, they recited the name of Amida Buddha and pronounced the names of all the other Buddhas, and day and night they read the Lotus Sutra. But because they showed enmity toward the true votary of the Lotus Sutra, their recitations of the Lotus Sutra and the name of Amida Buddha and their observance of the precepts did not help them, and they fell into the Avīchi hell for a period of a thousand kalpas. These monks and nuns at first manifested hatred toward Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, but later they underwent a change of heart and in the end served Never Disparaging as faithfully as any lowly servant serves his master. And yet they were not able to escape the hell of incessant suffering.
Nowadays I am hated by the people of Japan in much the same manner. And yet there are ways in which my case is different from that of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. He was cursed and beaten, but he was not condemned to exile by the rulers of the nation. He was attacked with sticks and staves, tiles and stones, but he was never wounded or threatened with beheading. I have been subjected to ceaseless defamation and attacks with sticks and staves for a period of over twenty years. I have been wounded, condemned to exile, and threatened with beheading. My disciples have been deprived of their fiefs or thrown into prison, exiled to distant places, driven from their hometowns, or stripped of their fields. They have been treated more severely than one would treat night raiders, thieves, pirates, mountain bandits, or plotters of rebellion. And all this has come about because of the accusations of the eminent priests of the True Word, Nembutsu, and Zen schools.
The errors committed by those persons are weightier than the earth itself. Therefore the earth quakes and trembles as though it were a boat on the ocean being tossed by a great wind. The eighty-four thousand stars in the sky32 blaze forth their anger, and day and night the heavens show strange manifestations. In addition, the sun and moon show numerous peculiarities in their behavior.
Already 2,227 years have passed since the demise of the Buddha. In India King Mihirakula burned down the temples of the five regions of India and beheaded the monks in sixteen great states. In China Emperor Wu-tsung destroyed the temples of Chinese Buddhism and smashed their Buddha images, while in Japan Moriya, kindling a fire of charcoal, melted down the bronze-gilt image of Shakyamuni Buddha and attacked and harassed the priests and nuns, forcing them to return to lay life. Yet when these events were taking place in India, China, and Japan, there were no comets or great earthquakes such as we see now.33
The people of today are a hundred, thousand, ten thousand times more evil than those men in the past. In the past it was simply a case of the ruler alone having evil designs; his high ministers and the others under him did not share his passion for destruction. Moreover, the destructive efforts of the rulers were directed at provisional Buddhas and provisional sutras, and the priests they attacked were not the votaries of the Lotus Sutra.
But now this great animosity is directed toward the Lotus Sutra, and arises not from the ruler alone, but from the hearts of wise men throughout the country and the mass of common people.
It is like the case of a woman possessed by jealousy. A great fire burns within her breast, and as a result her whole body turns red. The hair on her body stands on end, her entire body quivers, and the flames ascend to her face until it has become crimson. Her 777eyes are as round as those of a cat about to pounce on a mouse, and her hands tremble like oak leaves tossed in the wind. When bystanders observe her, she looks no different than a demon.
The rulers of Japan and the various priests and nuns are like that jealous woman. I, Nichiren, have declared that the Nembutsu, the invocation of Amida’s name, which these rulers and priests rely upon, is a practice that will condemn one to the hell of incessant suffering. I have said that True Word is the doctrine that will ruin the nation, and that the keeping of the precepts is the work of the heavenly devil. When they hear these pronouncements of mine, they count their prayer beads and grind their teeth in rage, ring their little bells while shaking their heads in anger. Though outwardly they observe the precepts, they harbor hearts of evil.
So the Sage Ryōkan of Gokuraku-ji, that “living Buddha,” hurries with petitions to the government offices to bring charges against me, the Sage Dōryū of Kenchō-ji mounts his palanquin and goes to plead with the magistrates, and the lay nuns who observe the five hundred precepts present offerings and documents of accusation. All of this has come about because they read the Lotus Sutra but do not really read it, because they hear its words but do not really hear them, because they are drunk on the sweet old sake of the assertions by Shan-tao and Hōnen that “not even one person in a thousand” can be saved, or by Kōbō and Jikaku that doctrines other than the True Word are all “mere childish theory,”34 or by Bodhidharma that Zen represents a “separate transmission outside the sutras.” They have been driven mad by this sake.
To read the passage of the Lotus Sutra that says, “Among those sutras the Lotus is the foremost,”35 and yet declare that the Mahāvairochana Sutra is superior to it, to assert that the Zen school represents the highest of all Buddhist teachings, that the Precepts school is worthy of true honor, that the Nembutsu is the only practice truly fitted to our capacities—what are these but the ravings of a person who is drunk on sake? They look at the stars and declare them superior to the moon, look at a stone and say it is more valuable than gold, look at the east and call it the west, the sky and call it the earth. And then on the basis of these idiocies they proceed to rage at persons who declare that the moon and gold are superior to stars and stones, who say that the east is the east and the sky is the sky. Are we to go along with such persons simply because they are numerous? Are they not merely a great gathering of idiots? How sad it is to think that all the useless men and women who base themselves upon delusions of this kind are destined to fall into hell.
In the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha tells us that in the Latter Day of the Law, those who slander the Lotus Sutra and fall into hell will be more numerous than the dust particles of the land, while those who believe in it and attain Buddhahood will be fewer than the specks of dirt that can be placed on a fingernail. We should give careful thought to this pronouncement. Are the inhabitants of Japan to be compared in number to the specks of dirt on a fingernail? Is this one man, Nichiren, to be compared to the particles of dust in all the ten directions?
But leaving that aside, I wonder what karma from a previous existence has led you to send this gift of a robe to me. Do you perhaps intend to be numbered among those who are “fewer than the specks of dirt placed on a fingernail”?
The Nirvana Sutra tells us to imagine a needle placed upright in the earth and a strong wind blowing. Then we are to imagine that under such circumstances, a thread is lowered straight 778down from the Brahma heaven and an attempt made to pass it through the eye of the needle. It is easier to accomplish this feat, we are told, than to encounter a votary of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age.36
Again, the Lotus Sutra says that there is a turtle living at the bottom of the ocean. Once every three thousand years the turtle rises to the surface of the sea, and if he can encounter a floating piece of sandalwood with a hollow in it, he can rest himself there. But this turtle has only one eye, and the vision in that eye is distorted, so that things to the west of him appear to be in the east, and things to the east of him to be in the west. This simile indicates how difficult it is for men and women born in this evil world of the latter age to fit themselves into the “hollow” that is the Lotus Sutra and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.37
In view of these difficulties, I wonder what bond of karma from the past has inspired in your heart the determination to communicate with a person like me?
If we examine the Lotus Sutra, we find it stated that, in cases like these, Shakyamuni Buddha enters into a person and inspires such determination in that person’s heart. It is like someone who, with no particular thought in mind, drinks sake and becomes intoxicated. After he is intoxicated, a quite unexpected desire arises in his heart and he is inspired to give away his belongings to other people. Although the person has all his life been stingy and greedy and is destined for rebirth in the realm of hungry spirits, because of the effect of the sake, he is able to enter the realm of a bodhisattva.
If a jewel is placed in muddy water,38 the water will become clear, and if a person gazes at the moon, his heart will be filled with nostalgia. A picture of a demon can be frightening even though we know it is not alive, and a picture of a beautiful woman can make a wife jealous even though she knows the picture cannot steal her husband away from her. If a brocade bed mat is woven with a pattern of snakes, no one will want to lie down on it, and if one’s body is overheated, one will find a warm breeze distasteful. Such is the nature of the human heart.
So when a person like yourself feels drawn in your heart toward the Lotus Sutra, I suppose it must be that, since you are a woman, the dragon king’s daughter has taken possession of you.
I come now to the matter of Jirō Hyōe-no-jō of Owari, whom I met in the past. Unlike most people, in the course of spreading these doctrines of mine I, Nichiren, have occasion to meet with a great many persons. But there are fewer than one in a thousand who impress me as truly admirable. Jirō Hyōe was not inclined to heed my teachings, yet as a person he was quite without offensive manners and in fact was a man of compassion and goodwill toward all. I cannot of course vouch for his inner feelings, but when I met him he struck me as a straightforward person.
His wife is a believer in the Lotus Sutra and therefore, although he may not have thought that it is the true sutra, it seems unlikely that he himself was completely opposed to it. This is a cause for hope. On the other hand, he put his faith in the Nembutsu and the Nembutsu believers, who disparage the Lotus Sutra, and was probably a Nembutsu believer himself, so I have doubts as to what kind of existence awaits him in his next life.
It is like the case of those who take service in the palace of the ruler and labor diligently there. Some are rewarded by the ruler’s favor and some are not. But if any of them commits the slightest error, it is quite certain that that person will be punished. It is the same way with the Lotus Sutra. No 779matter how fervently a person may appear to put faith in it, if, knowingly or unknowingly, he has dealings with the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, he will undoubtedly end up in the hell of incessant suffering.
But whatever may happen to Jirō Hyōe, I cannot help feeling pity when I think of the grief his wife must be suffering. She must feel like a wisteria vine in full bloom that has twined itself around a pine tree, but finds to her consternation that the pine has suddenly toppled over, or like ivy on a fence when the fence has collapsed.
She enters her home, but there is no husband there; it is as though the house were destroyed and had lost its pillar. Visitors appear, but there is no one to step forward and greet them. In the dark of night her bedroom is bleak and lonely. When she visits the grave, she sees the marker on it but hears no familiar voice.
Again, when she imagines her departed husband, she wonders who is accompanying him as he travels past the mountains of death and over the river of three crossings, or whether he is weeping as he makes the journey all alone. Is he wondering why his wife and children who have remained behind have sent him all alone on this journey, is he protesting in his grief that this is not in accord with the promises they made?
As the autumn night wanes away and the sound of a winter storm comes to her ears, the wife’s sorrow must grow heavier than ever. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The sixth day of the ninth month in the first year of Kōan , cyclical sign tsuchinoe-tora
To the lay nun Myōhō