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Letter to Misawa

Please tell the people of Suruga that they should unite firmly in faith.

I have received your offerings of a hundred oranges, kelp, green laver, ogo and other produce which you took the trouble of sending to me in this remote mountainous place. I have also received the quilted robe made by Utsubusa-no-ama.

I have read your letter most attentively. Although the people who study Buddhism outnumber the dust particles of the earth, those who actually become Buddhas are fewer than the number of dust particles one can place on his fingernail. This the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni clearly states in the Nirvana Sutra. On reading it, I wondered why it should be so difficult, but after some thought, I realized the most plausible answer. Although one studies Buddhism, it is difficult to practice it correctly because of the foolishness of his mind, or because, even though one may be wise, he follows an evil teacher and fails to realize that he is being misled. Moreover, even though one may encounter a good teacher and the sutra of the true teaching and thereby learn the True Law, inevitably, at the time when he resolves to free himself from the sufferings of birth and death and attain Buddhahood, he will encounter the three obstacles and four devils, just as surely as a shadow follows the body and rain is accompanied by clouds. Even if you should manage to overcome the first six, if you are defeated by the seventh, you will not be able to become a Buddha.

Let us leave the first six for now. The seventh is caused by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. When a common mortal of the Latter Day of the Law is ready to attain Buddhahood, having realized the true meaning of all the Buddha’s teachings and understood the profound teaching of the Maka Shikan, this devil is greatly surprised. He says to himself, "This is most vexing. If I allow this person to remain in my domain, he will not only free himself from the sufferings of birth and death but lead others to enlightenment as well. Moreover, he will take over my realm and change it into a pure land. What shall I do?" The devil then summons all his underlings from the threefold world of desire, form and formlessness and tells them, "Each of you now go and harass that votary, according to your respective skills. If you should fail to make him abandon his Buddhist practice, then enter into the minds of his disciples, patrons and the people of his land and thus try to persuade or threaten him. If these attempts are also unsuccessful, I myself will go down and enter the mind and body of his sovereign to persecute that votary. Together, how can we fail to prevent him from attaining Buddhahood?"

I, Nichiren, have long been aware of all this, and therefore know how difficult it is for a common mortal of the Latter Day to become a Buddha in this lifetime. The sutras describe in many places how Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment, and the obstacles he suffered because of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven seem absolutely unbearable. The fiendish acts of Devadatta and of King Ajatashatru were due solely to the workings of that devil. The Lotus Sutra says, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" A common mortal like Nichiren would not be able to bear any of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni’s sufferings for a single day or even for a single moment, let alone all the various persecutions which befell him during a period of more than fifty years. Moreover, it is taught that in the Latter Day of the Law, persecutions will be ten billion times greater than those in Shakyamuni’s day. I wondered how I could possibly withstand them. A sage, however, is said to be capable of predicting what will occur in the future. With regard to the three periods of past, present and future, and understanding of the future is the mark of a true sage. I, Nichiren, may not be a sage, but I have for some time known that Japan would in our day bring ruin upon itself [because of its attachment to heretical teachings].

I knew that if I dared to say this openly, then surely I must be the votary of the Lotus Sutra whom the Buddha prophesied would appear after his death and fulfill the Buddha’s teaching, "...how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" But if though knowing what the future holds, I remained silent, I would be condemned to be born a mute or a stutterer in lifetime after lifetime. I myself would become a great enemy of the Lord Shakyamuni and a traitor to the ruler of Japan. After death, I would fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. For years, therefore, I have continually admonished myself that, even though I might lack food or clothing, or be rebuked by my parents, brothers, teacher and friends, or be persecuted by the ruler and all the people, if I were going to waver even in the slightest on that account, I would have done better never to have spoken out in the first place.

Since the infinite past, I may have met the Lotus Sutra several times and set my heart on attaining enlightenment. However, while I may have been able to bear one or two minor difficulties, I must have given up when faced with a succession of great obstacles. In this life, I knew that if I were truly resolved to withstand the harshest trials, then I must speak out. This I did, and I encountered major persecutions one after another, just as the sutra predicts.

My resolution is now inflexible. Determined to endure any hardship, I have fulfilled the Buddha’s prediction, and I have no doubt [that I am the votary of the Lotus Sutra]. Now I am living here in these desolate mountains and forests. Even if you should abandon your faith in the Lotus Sutra, how could I regard as strangers people who, if only for a day or even for a moment, have helped me survive? Never have I cared what happens to me personally. I promised that no matter what might befall me, I would maintain my faith without regressing, and if I became a Buddha, I would lead all of you to enlightenment. You have less knowledge of Buddhism than I, and moreover, you are lay believers with lands, families and retainers. Therefore, it may be extremely difficult for you to sustain your faith throughout life. This is why I have always told you that because of your position, it would be better to feign ignorance of this teaching. No matter what may happen in the future, be assured that I will never forsake or neglect you.

As for my teachings, regard those before my exile to Sado as equivalent to the Buddha’s pre-Lotus Sutra teachings. I had thought that if the ruler of this country desired to govern well, he would summon the priests of the Shingon sect for an open debate with me, and that, on that occasion, I would reveal for the first time the true teaching of supreme importance. Before my exile, I withheld this teaching even from my disciples for fear that if I should tell them, even in confidence, they might inadvertently disclose it to the Shingon priests, who would then avoid the debate. This is why I refrained from revealing the true teaching to all of you as well.

Then on the night of the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun’ei (1271), I was very nearly beheaded at Tatsunokuchi. From that time, I felt pity for my followers because I had not yet revealed the true teaching to any of them. With this in mind, I secretly conveyed my teaching to my disciples from the province of Sado. After the Buddha’s death, great scholars and teachers of Buddhism such Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo, Dengyo and Gishin knew this teaching, but kept it in their hears and did not express it in words. The reason was that the Buddha had forbidden them to spread it, stating, "After my death, this great Law should not be revealed until the Latter Day of the Law arrives." I, Nichiren, may not be an envoy sent by the Buddha, but my appearance in this world coincides with the age of the Latter Day. Moreover, quite unexpectedly, I came to realize this teaching, which I now expound to prepare the way for a sage.

With the appearance of this teaching, all the teachings advocated by the scholars and teacher of Buddhism during the Former and Middle Days of the Law will be like stars after sunrise or an awkward apprentice beside a skilled craftsman. It is predicted that once this Law is revealed in this era, the Buddha images as well as the priests of the temples built in the Former and Middle Days will all lose their power to benefit people, and only this one great Law shall spread all over the world. Since all of you have a bond with this teaching, you should feel reassured.

Utsubusa came a long distance to visit me despite her advanced age, but since I was told that it was merely a casual visit on her way back from the shrine of her ancestors, I would not see her, although I pitied her greatly. Had I permitted her to see me, I would have been allowing her to commit slander against the Lotus Sutra. The reason is that all gods are subjects, and the Buddha is their lord. It is against even the code of society to visit one’s lord on the way back from calling on one of his subjects. Moreover, Utsubusa is a nun, a follower of the Buddha. She should have the Buddha foremost in mind. Because she made this and other mistakes as well, I refused to see her. She was not the only one, however. I refused to see many others who stopped by to visit me on their return from the hot spring resort at Shimone. Utsubusa is the same age that my parents would be. I feel deeply sorry to have disappointed her, but I want her to understand this point.

After you came here to see me the year before last, I received word - true or not, I do not know - that you were ill, and I wanted to send a messenger to inquire after you. However, my disciples said that much as they understood how I felt, they advised against it, as it might embarrass you. Therefore I abandoned the idea, acknowledging that such is the way of the world. I thought that if you were really ill, you would inform me, since you have always been sincere and faithful. I did not hear from you, however, so I myself deliberately refrained from inquiring after you, although I have been anxious about you all this time. Change is the way of all things, but last year and this year too the world has changed so greatly that I feared I might not be able to see you any more. Just when I was longing to hear from you, your letter arrived. Nothing could have given me greater pleasure. Please tell the Lady Utsubusa about all that I have written here.

I would like to explain further about my teaching, but this letter is already too long. Earlier I mentioned the Zen, Nembutsu and Ritsu sects. However, of the many sects of Buddhism, Shingon is the very teaching which brought ruin upon China and will destroy Japan as well. Not only were six priests - Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k’ung of China, and Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho of Japan - confused as to the relative superiority of the Lotus Sutra and the three sutras of Dainichi, but also the first three made false objects of worship representing the two worlds and misled people to believe that these mandalas had originated in India. Being so deceived, the latter three priests learned the doctrines of Shingon, brought them to Japan and spread them throughout the land, from the ruler down to the common people. Emperor Hsuan-tsung of China lost his empire because of the Shingon doctrines, and our country is also steadily declining. The retired eighty-second emperor, Gotoba, was robbed of his power by the Kamakura government despite Bodhisattva Hachiman’s oath to protect one hundred successive rulers. This misfortune was solely the result of the prayers offered by eminent priests who followed the three Shingon priests - Kobo and the others - on behalf of the imperial court. These evil prayers "returned to the originators."

Because the Kamakura shogunate attacked the evil doctrine of Shingon and its evil men, it might have ruled our land for eighteen generations more, in accordance with the oath of Bodhisattva Hachiman. However, it has now turned to the men of the same evil doctrine it once opposed. Therefore, as Japan no longer has a ruler worthy of protection, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings have replied to this slander by ordering a foreign country to invade Japan. They have also dispatched the votary of the Lotus Sutra as their envoy. The ruler, however, does not heed his warnings. On the contrary, he sides with the evil priests, thus creating chaos in both religious and secular realms. As a result, he has become a formidable enemy of the Lotus Sutra. And as his slander has long continued, this country is on the verge of ruin.

Today’s epidemic is no less than the harbinger of defeat in a great war which is to come. How pitiful! How tragic!

Nichiren

The twenty-third day of the second month
 

  

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