Letter to the Priests of Seicho-ji
Let us congratulate each other on the coming of the New
Year. Since you paid me no visit last year, I am worried whether something unfortunate may have occurred. If you have
a chance to call on me, would you borrow for me the Jujushin ron, Hizo hoyaku, Nikyo ron and other commentaries
of the Shingon sect from the priest Ise-ko! I need them in order to refute the Shingon priests who have for some time
been clamoring against me. Bring with you also volumes one and two of the Maka shikan. I would also appreciate the Toshun
and the Fusho ki if they are available. Borrow the Shuyo shu which is owned by Kanchi-bo, the disciple of Enchi-bo.
Moreover, I have heard people say that he is in possession of other relevant writings. Please borrow them as well, and
tell him that I will return them as soon as possible. This year the question of which Buddhist teachings are right
and which are wrong will definitely be resolved.
Tell Joken-bo, Gijo-bo and other priests on my behalf: "Nichiren has often been on the verge of being
killed. Twice he was exiled and once almost beheaded. This is not because of any worldly wrongs on his part. [As a youth,]
he received great wisdom from the living Bodhisattva Kokuzo. He had been praying to the bodhisattva to become the wisest
person in Japan. The bodhisattva must have taken pity on him, for he presented him with a great jewel as brilliant as
the morning star, which Nichiren tucked away in his right sleeve. Thereafter, on perusing the entire body of sutras,
he was able to discern in essence the relative worth of the eight sects as well as of all the scriptures."
The Shingon sect is especially blameworthy, because it attempts to destroy the Lotus Sutra. It is
essential to refute Shingon, so in preparation I first attacked the errors of the Zen and Nembutsu sects. I have good
reason for my accusation. I will reserve discussion of the rights or wrongs of Buddhist schools in India and China for
some other time, but for Japan, all the people have discarded the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra and are therefore
without exception destined to fall into the evil paths. This is because, at each and every temple, the Shingon sect
invariably exists side by side with the Hokke [Lotus] sect just as a shadow follows the body. Thus, to the correct
practice of the Lotus Sutra is added the Shingon practice of the eighteen paths, and to its performance of penitence
is joined that based on the Amida Sutra. And in conferring titles upon priests of the Tendai sect, the Shingon procedure
predominates, while that of the Lotus Sutra is relegated to a secondary position.
In reality, the sutras of Shingon belong to the provisional teachings previous to the Lotus Sutra and
are inferior even to the Kegon or the Hannya sutras. Yet Jikaku and Kobo were confused on this point and held that the
Shingon sutras were equal or even superior to the Lotus Sutra. The ceremony for "opening the eyes" of a newly-made image
of the Buddha is therefore conducted with the mudra of the Buddha-eye Goddess and the mantra of Dainichi Buddha. As
a result, all the wooden and painted images of the Buddha in Japan have been rendered soulless and sightless and,
in consequence, have been possessed by the heavenly devil, bringing ruin upon their own worshipers. This is why the
imperial court [in Kyoto] is about to perish. Now the evil teaching of Shingon has made its appearance in Kamakura and
threatens to destroy all of Japan.
The Zen and Pure Land sects also hold extremely perverted views. I knew that if I declared this, it
would certainly cost me my life. Yet I was determined to requite the favor of Bodhisattva Kokuzo. With this in mind,
on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in the fifth year of Kencho (1253), I pointed out the errors of the various
sects for the first time to a small audience including Joen-bo on the southern side of the image hall in Dozen-bo’s
quarters in Seicho-ji temple, located in Tojo Village in Awa Province. For more than twenty years since then, I have
persisted in my declaration without retreating a step. For this reason, I was at times driven from my dwelling and at
other times exiled. In former days Bodhisattva Fukyo was beaten with staves; now Nichiren must face the sword.
All the people in Japan, both wise and foolish, from the sovereign down to the common people, say
that the priest Nichiren is no match for the scholars, teachers, great masters and eminent priests of old. I waited
for the right time to dispel their distrust of me. The time finally came when great earthquakes occurred in the Shoka
era, followed by the appearance of a huge comet in the Bun’ei era. Observing these, I made this prediction: ‘Our
country will suffer two terrible disasters, internal strife and foreign invasion. The former will take place in Kamakura,
in the form of internecine strife among the descendants of the Gon no Tayu. The latter may come from any direction,
but that from the west would be the most violent. This latter will occur solely because of the fact that all the
Buddhist sects in Japan are erroneous, and Bonten and Taishaku will therefore command other countries to attack us.
So long as the country refuses to heed me, it will certainly be defeated, no matter whether it has a hundred, a thousand
or even ten thousand generals as brave as Masakado, Sumitomo, Sadato, Toshihito, or Tamura. If these words of mine prove
false, then the people are free to believe in the distorted views of the Shingon, Nembutsu and other sects." This is
the prediction that I made known far and wide.
I especially warn the priests on Mount Kiyosumi. If they treat me with less respect than they show
their own parents or the three treasures, they will become wretched beggars in this life and will fall into the hell
of incessant suffering in the next. I will explain why. The villainous Tojo Saemon Kagenobu once hunted the deer and
other animals kept by Seicho-ji and tried to force the priests in the various lodging temples to become Nembutsu believers.
At that time I pitted myself against Tojo and supported the lord of the manor. I composed a fervent oath which read,
‘If the two temples, Kiyosumi and Futama, should come into Tojo’s possession, I will discard the Lotus Sutra!’
Then I tied it to the hand of the object of worship, to which I prayed continuously. Within a year, both temples were
freed from Tojo’s grasp. Certainly Bodhisattva Kokuzo will never forget this, so how can those priests who make
light of me avoid being forsaken by the heavenly gods? Hearing me say this, the more foolish of you may think that I
am invoking a curse upon you. That is not so, however. I am warning you simply because it would be a pity if you should
fall into the hell of incessant suffering after your death.
Let me say a few words about Ama Gozen, the wife of the lord of the manor. Being a woman, and a foolish
one at that, she must have been turned against my teaching by threats from others. I pity her, for, having forgotten
her debt of gratitude, she will fall into the evil paths in her next existence. Despite that, however, she extended
great favor to my parents, so I am praying that I may somehow be able to save her from that fate.
The Lotus Sutra is nothing other than a scripture that reveals that Shakyamuni became a Buddha in
the distant past of gohyaku-jintengo. It also predicts that Shariputra and the other disciples will become Buddhas in
the future. Those who do not believe the sutra will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Not only did Shakyamuni
himself declare all this, but Taho Buddha also testified to its truth and the Buddhas from the ten directions extended
their tongues by way of verification. Furthermore, the Lotus Sutra states that the votary of this sutra will receive
the protection of the bodhisattvas as numerous as the dust particles of a thousand worlds who emerged from the earth,
the bodhisattvas Monju and Kannon, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and the ten
demon daughters. Therefore, there is no other way to attain Buddhahood than by practicing the Lotus Sutra, for it is
the only scripture which reveals things past and future.
I have never seen Tsukushi, nor do I
know anything about the barbarians [of the west]. Yet, the prediction I made concerning the Mongols in light of the
entire body of the sutras has already come true. Hence, when I say that you will all fall into the hell of incessant
suffering because of your ingratitude, how can my words prove false! You may be safe for the time being, but wait and
see what happens later. All of Japan will be reduced to the same miserable state in which the islands of Iki and
Tsushima now find themselves. When vast numbers of Mongol hordes close in on the province of Awa, those of you priests
who cling to prejudiced views will cringe in terror and finally fall into the hell of incessant suffering, saying, ‘Now
I know that the priest Nichiren was right.’ What a pity! What a pity indeed!
eleventh day of the first month
To the priests of Seicho-ji in the province of Awa
This letter is to be read aloud
by the priests Sado and Suke Ajari before the statue of Bodhisattva Kokuzo for all the priests of Seicho-ji to hear.