Reply to Nii-ama
I have received a bag of dried laver from you. I would also like to express my appreciation for the offering
of dried laver from O-ama Gozen.
This area is called Mount Minobu. Suruga Province lies to the south, and it is more than a hundred ri from
the seaside of Ukishimagahara in that province to this mountain at Hakiri Village in Kai Province. The way is more difficult
than ten times the distance on an ordinary path. The Fuji River, the swiftest in all Japan, runs from north to south. High
mountains rise to the east and west of this river, forming deep valleys where huge rocks stand about everywhere like tall
folding-screens. The waters of the river rush through the valley like an arrow shot through a tube by a powerful archer. The
river is so swift and rocky that sometimes a boat will be smashed against the rapids as it travels along the riverbanks or
attempts to cross the stream. Coming through this dangerous pass, one arrives at a large mountain called the peak of Minobu.
To the east stands the peak of Tenshi, to the south, Takatori, to the west, Shichimen, and to the north, Minobu,
and they all tower as though four giant folding-screens had been set up. Climbing these peaks, you will see a vast stretch
of forest below, while going down to the valleys, you will find huge rocks lined up side by side. The howls of wolves fill
the mountains, the chatter of monkeys echoes through the valleys, stags call plaintively to their does, and the voices of
cicadas sound shrilly. Here spring flowers bloom in summer, while trees bear autumn fruit in winter. Occasionally one sees
a woodcutter gathering firewood, and my rare visitors are only friends of old. Mount Shang in China where the four white-haired
recluses retired from the world and the deep recesses in the mountains where the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove secluded
themselves must have been like this place.
As you climb the peak, it looks as if kelp were growing there, but instead you find only an expanse of bracken.
Going down to the valleys, you think surely it must be laver growing there, but it is only a dense growth of parsley.
Though I had long since ceased to think about my home, this laver brings back trivial nostalgic memories,
making me feel sad. It is the same kind of laver I saw long ago on the shore at Kataumi, Ichikawa and Kominato. I feel an
unwarranted resentment that the color, shape and taste of this laver should remain unchanged while my parents have passed
away, and I cannot restrain my tears.
Enough of this. O-ama has asked me to inscribe the Gohonzon for her, but I am troubled by her request. The
reason is as follows. This Gohonzon was never mentioned in the writings of the many Buddhist scholars who traveled from India
to China or in those of the priests who journeyed from China to India. All the objects of worship ever enshrined in the temples
throughout India are described without exception in the Daito Saiiki Ki, the Jion Den, and the Dento Roku, [and this Gohonzon
is not among them]. Nor have I found it mentioned among the objects) of worship of the various temples which were described
by those sages who traveled from China to Japan or by those wise men who went from Japan to China. Since all the records of
the first temples in Japan such as Gango-ji, Shitenno-ji and other temples as well as many histories, beginning with the Nihon
Shoki name them without omission, the objects of worship in these temples are clearly known, but this Gohonzon has never been
listed among them.
People may say in doubt: "It was probably not expounded in the sutras or treatises. That is why the many wise
men have neither painted nor carved images of it." I say that, because the sutras lie before their eyes, those who so doubt
should examine whether or not it is revealed in the sutras. It is wrong to denounce this object of worship merely because
it was never painted or carved in previous ages.
For example, Shakyamuni Buddha once ascended to the Trayastrimsha Heaven to fulfill his obligations to his
[deceased] mother. But no one in the entire world, except for the Venerable Maudgalyayana, was aware of it, because of the
Buddha’s supernatural powers. Thus even though Buddhism may exist before their eyes, people will not realize it if they
lack the proper capacity, nor will it spread unless the time is right. This is in accordance with the natural law, just as
the tides of the ocean ebb and flow and the moon in the sky wanes and waxes according to the time.
Lord Shakyamuni treasured this Gohonzon in mind since the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo, but even after
he appeared in this world, he did not expound it for more than forty years following his first preaching. Even in the Lotus
Sutra he did not allude to it in the earlier chapters of the theoretical teaching. Only in the Hoto chapter did he begin to
suggest it. He revealed it in the Juryo chapter, and concluded his explanation in the Jinriki and Zokurui chapters.
Bodhisattvas such as Monjushiri living in the Golden World, Miroku in the palace of the Tushita Heaven, Kannon
on Mount Potalaka and Yakuo, who had served the Buddha Nichigatsu Jomyotoku, all vied with one another in asking [the Buddha’s
permission to propagate faith in the Gohonzon in the Latter Day of the Law], but the Buddha refused. Those bodhisattvas were
well known as men of excellent wisdom and profound learning, but since they had only recently begun to hear the Lotus Sutra,
their understanding was still limited. Thus they would not be able to endure great difficulties in the Latter Day.
Then the Buddha declared, "There are my true disciples whom I have hidden at the bottom of the earth since
gohyaku-jintengo. I will entrust it to them." So saying, the Buddha summoned those bodhisattvas led by Jogyo in the Yujutsu
chapter and entrusted them with the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the essential teaching of the sutra,
[in the Jinriki chapter].
Then the Buddha stated: "You must not propagate it in the first millennium of the Former Day of the Law or
in the second millennium of the Middle Day following my death. In the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, slanderous priests
will fill the entire world, so that all heavenly gods will be enraged and comets will appear in the sky and the earth will
shake like the movement of huge waves. Innumerable disasters and calamities such as drought, fires, floods, gales, epidemics,
famine and war will all occur at once. The people throughout the world will don armor and take up bows and staves, and since
none of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas or benevolent deities will be able to help them, they will all die and fall like rain into
the hell of incessant suffering. At this very time, kings can save their countries and the people will escape calamities if
they embrace and believe in this great mandala of the five characters, and in their next life they will not fall into the
great fires of hell."
Now I, Nichiren, am not Bodhisattva Jogyo, but perhaps by his design I have already attained a general understanding
of this teaching, and I have been expounding it for these more than twenty years. When one resolves to propagate it, he will
meet difficulties, as the sutra states: "Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during the lifetime of
the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" and, "The people will be full of hostility, and it
will be extremely difficult to believe." Of the three types of powerful enemies predicted in the sutra, the first indicates
the sovereign, district and village stewards and lords of manors as well as the ordinary populace. Believing the charges leveled
by the second and third types of enemies, who are priests, they will vilify or slander the votary of the Lotus Sutra, or attack
him with swords and staves.
Tojo Village in Awa Province, though it is a remote place may well be called the center of Japan because the
Sun Goddess resides there. In ancient times she lived in Ise Province. Later on, the emperor came to take deep faith in Bodhisattva
Hachiman and in Kamo Shrine and neglected the Sun Goddess, so that she became enraged. At that time, Minamoto no Yoritomo
wrote a pledge and ordered Aoka no Kodayu to enshrine her in the outer shrine of Ise. Probably because Yoritomo27 thus satisfied
the goddess’s desire, he became the shogun and ruled the whole of Japan. He then decided on Tojo District as the residence
of the Sun Goddess, and so she no longer lives in Ise Province but in Tojo District in Awa Province. This is similar to Bodhisattva
Hachiman who, in ancient times, resided at Dazaifu in Chikuzen Province but later dwelt at Otokoyama in Yamashiro Province
and now lives at Tsurugaoka in Kamakura in Sagami Province.
Nichiren began to propagate this true teaching in Tojo District in Awa Province in Japan, out of all places
in the entire world. Accordingly, the Tojo steward became my enemy, but his clan has now been half destroyed.
O-ama Gozen is insincere and foolish. She was also irresolute, believing at one time, while renouncing her
belief at another. When Nichiren incurred the displeasure of the government authorities, she quickly discarded the Lotus Sutra.
This is why, even before, I told her the Lotus Sutra is "the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand,"
whenever we met.
If I give her the Gohonzon because I am indebted to her, then the Ten Goddesses will certainly think I am
a very partial priest. On the other hand, if I follow the sutra and do not give her a Gohonzon because of her lack of faith,
I will not be partial, but she may well harbor a grudge against me because she does not realize her fault. I have explained
the reasons for my refusal in detail in a letter to Suke no Ajari. Please send for the letter and show it to her.
You are of the same family as O-ama Gozen, but you have demonstrated the sincerity of your faith. Because
you have often sent offerings to me, both to Sado and here to Minobu, and because your resolve does not seem to wane, I have
inscribed a Gohonzon for you. But I still worry whether you will maintain your faith to the end and feel as if I were treading
on thin ice or facing a drawn sword. I will write to you again in more detail.
When I incurred the displeasure of the government, even in Kamakura 999 out of 1,000 discarded their faith,
but since popular feeling toward me has now softened, some of them seem to regret. I do not class O-ama Gozen with those people
and I feel deeply sorry for her, but I can no more bestow the Gohonzon upon someone who goes against the Lotus Sutra than
flesh can replace bone. Please explain to her thoroughly why I cannot grant her request.
With my deep respect,
The sixteenth day of the second month.