Letter to Nakaoki Nyudo
I have received the one kan of coins which you sent me and respectfully reported it in the presence
The country of Japan is located in Jambudvipa to the south of Mount Sumeru. Jambudvipa measures seven thousand
yojana in both length and breadth. In it there are eighty-four thousand countries, namely, the five regions of India, sixteen
major kingdoms, five hundred intermediate kingdoms, and ten thousand minor kingdoms, as well as countless smaller countries
like scattered grains of millet and islands like particles of dust. All of these lands lie in the great ocean like fallen
leaves floating here and there on a pond. Our country of Japan is a small island in the great sea. It was once so small that
it would disappear from sight when the tide rose - becoming barely visible only when the tide ebbed - until the two deities
enlarged it to its present size. Its first human ruler was a great emperor named Jimmu. For some thirty reigns after him,
neither a Buddha nor sutras nor priests existed in this country, only ordinary people and gods. Because there was no Buddhism,
the people neither knew of hell nor aspired to the pure land. Even when death parted them from their parents or siblings,
they had no idea what would become of the deceased. They must have thought of death as something like the vanishing of dew
or like the setting of the sun and moon.
Then, during the reign of the thirtieth emperor, the great ruler Kimmei, King Songmyong of Paekche, a state
northwest of Japan, sent to this country a gilded bronze image of Shakyamuni Buddha, a set of sutras expounded by that Buddha,
and several priests who were to read them to the people. However, the Buddha was a statue and not a living person, and the
sutras bore no resemblance to non-Buddhist writings. The priests spoke, but no one could understand what they preached. Moreover,
their appearance was neither that of men nor of women. For all these reasons, the people were doubtful and dismayed. The ministers
of the left and the right met in the emperor's presence and discussed the matter from various angles. The opinion prevailed
that Buddhism should not be adopted, so the statue of the Buddha was discarded and the priests were imprisoned.
Then, on the fifteenth day of the second month in the second year of Emperor Bidatsu's reign, Prince Shotoku,
son of Emperor Yomei, faced east and chanted "Namu Shakyamuni Buddha," whereupon the Buddha's relics materialized in his hand.
In the sixth year of Emperor Bidatsu's reign, the prince read and recited the Lotus Sutra. Since then more than seven centuries
have passed and more than sixty emperors have reigned, and Buddhism has gradually spread throughout Japan. Among the sixty-six
provinces and the two islands, there is no place where it has not reached. In every province, every district, and every town,
village, and hamlet, Buddhist halls, pagodas, and temples have been built, and Buddhism now dwells in 171,037 places. Men
of wisdom as brilliant as the sun and moon have spread Buddhism in generation after generation, and worthy men who shine like
the myriad stars fill every province. For their own sakes, they practice Shingon, the Hannya sutras or the Ninno Sutra, or
chant the name of Amida Buddha, or believe in Kannon, Jizo or the three thousand Buddhas, or read and recite the Lotus Sutra.
But when they encourage the practice of ignorant priests and lay people, they merely say: "Just chant 'Namu Amida Butsu.'
Suppose a woman has a baby. If the child falls into a moat or a river, or if he is lonely, he will cry 'Mother! Mother!' Hearing
this, the mother will never fail to set everything else aside and come to his aid. The same holds true with Amida Buddha.
We are infants and he is our mother. So, if you fall into the pit of Hell or the moat of Hunger, just chant 'Namu Amida Butsu,'
and he will never fail to come save you - just as an echo follows a sound." This is what all these men of wisdom have always
taught. Therefore, our country of Japan has long since followed the custom of chanting that phrase.
Now I, Nichiren, am neither a resident of the capital, the center of the country, nor the son of a general
on the frontiers. I am merely the son of a commoner and come from a remote province. But I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which
not a single person in Japan has ever chanted during the past more than seven hundred years. Next, I have declared that to
chant the name of Amida Buddha as people do, revering him as they would their parents, the sun and moon, or their lords, feeling
as though they had found a ship on which to make a crossing or found water when they were thirsty or food when they were hungry,
creates the karma that will cause them to fall into the hell of incessant suffering. They were therefore as startled and resentful
as if stones had been cooked in with their food, as if their horse had stumbled over a rock and bolted, as if a gale had begun
to blow while they were crossing a body of water, as if a great fire had broken out in a populated area, as if they had suddenly
been attacked by an enemy, or as if a harlot had become an empress.
However, for twenty-seven years, from the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in the fifth year of Kencho
(1253) up until now, the eleventh month of the second year of Koan (1279), I have not once retreated but continued to speak
out all the more strongly - just as the moon waxes or as the tide rises. At first, when I, Nichiren, alone chanted the daimoku,
those who saw me, met me, or heard me stopped up their ears, glared at me with furious eyes, contorted their mouths, clenched
their fists, and ground their teeth. Even my parents, brothers, teachers and friends became my enemies. Then the steward and
the lord of the manor where I lived turned against me. Later the whole province was in an uproar, and eventually the entire
populace grew alarmed. Meanwhile, some people began to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo either to mimic or to mock me, or seemingly
out of faith, or seemingly to disparage me. Now one tenth of the people in Japan chant only Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The remaining
nine tenths are those who chant both the daimoku and Amida Buddha's name, those who are wavering between the two, and those
who chant only the Nembutsu. People of this last group revile me as though I were an enemy of their parents or their lord,
or a sworn foe from a past existence. Heads of villages, districts, and provinces hate me as though I were a traitor.
As I continued to proclaim my teaching in this way, I was driven out of place after place, forced to move
on throughout Japan like a log adrift on the sea at the wind's mercy, or like a tiny feather that soars high into the air
and then hovers about, now rising, now falling. At times I was thrashed, arrested, wounded, or exiled far away. At times my
disciples were killed or I myself was banished. Then, on the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271),
I incurred the wrath of the government and was subsequently exiled to the northern island province of Sado.
Though I had never violated the secular laws even in the slightest, the authorities accused me, saying,
"This priest has gone so far as to declare that the late lay priests Saimyo-ji and Gokuraku-ji have fallen into hell. He is
worse than a traitor." They were about to behead me at a place called Tatsunokuchi in Kamakura in Sagami Province, but then
they apparently reconsidered, thinking: "True, his crime is indeed heinous, but he is a votary of the Lotus Sutra nonetheless.
If we kill him rashly, there is no telling what disaster might occur. On the other hand, if we leave him on a remote island,
he will surly perish of some cause or other. Not only is he hated by the ruler, but the common people all regard him as they
would an enemy of their parents. He will probably be killed or die of hunger either on his way to Sado or after he has arrived
in that province." Thus they decided to dispose of me in this way.
However, possibly due to the protection of the Lotus Sutra and the Ten Goddesses, or perhaps because Heaven
realized my innocence, although many of the islanders hated me, there was an old man named Nakaoki no Jiro Nyudo [who befriended
me]. He was as wise as he was advanced in years, and he enjoyed robust health and commanded the esteem of the local people.
Probably because this venerable man said of me, "This priest can be no ordinary person," his sons did not strongly resent
me. Since most of the other people were in the service of the retainers of the Nakaoki family, they too made no attempt to
harm me on their own authority and carefully obeyed the government's instructions.
Though water may be muddied, it will become clear again. Though the moon may hide behind the clouds, it
will surely reappear. Similarly, in time my innocence became apparent, and my predictions proved not to have been in vain.
Perhaps on that account, although the members of the Hojo family and influential lords insisted that I should not be pardoned,
I was finally released from my sentence of exile at the sole decision of Regent Hojo Tokimune and returned to Kamakura.
I, Nichiren, am the most loyal subject in all of Japan. I do not believe that there has ever been, nor ever
will be, anyone who can equal me in this respect. The reason I say so is as follows. When the great earthquake struck during
the Shoka era (1257-1259) and the huge comet appeared in the first year of Bun'ei (1264), a number of wise men, both Buddhist
and non-Buddhist, performed divinations, but they could neither determine the causes of these disasters nor foretell what
was to come. As for me, Nichiren, I secluded myself in a scripture library, and after pondering the texts, I concluded that
because the people revere the priests of provisional Mahayana and Hinayana teachings such as Shingon, Zen, Nembutsu, and Ritsu,
and make light of the Lotus Sutra, Bonten and Taishaku would rebuke them by ordering a country in the west to attack Japan.
I submitted a written warning to this effect to the late lay priest Saimyo-ji. People of all religions scoffed at it and dismissed
it, but nine years later, in the fifth year of Bun'ei (1268), an official declaration arrived from the great Mongol Empire
announcing its intention to attack Japan. Because my prediction had thus come true, the Nembutsu believers, Shingon teachers,
and others resented me and plotted against my life.
To give an analogy, in China, among the concubines of Emperor Hsuan-tsung, there was a beautiful woman known
as the Lady of the Shang-yang Palace. She was the greatest beauty in the empire. The emperor's consort, Yang Kuei-fei, saw
her and thought, "If she is allowed to serve near the emperor, she will surely steal his favor away from me." So she forged
an imperial edict and had the lady's parents and brothers either banished or executed. The lady herself was imprisoned and
tortured for no less than forty years.
My own case is similar to this. "If Nichiren's warnings become widely known, the government will have to
ask him to pray for the defeat of the great Mongol Empire. And if Japan should in fact be victorious, he will become the foremost
priest in this country. We, on the other hand, will lose our influence and prestige." So thinking, perhaps the priests of
the other sects brought false charges against me. Unaware of their motives, the regent believed their words and is now about
to bring the nation to ruin.
In a similar way, the second emperor of the Ch'in dynasty of China, instigated by Chao Kao's slanderous
tongue, had Li Ssu executed, and later he himself perished at the hands of Chao Kao. And Emperor Daigo of Japan, prompted
by the slanderous words of the minister of the left, Fujiwara no Tokihira, banished the minister of the right. Afterward the
emperor fell into hell.
The present regent is just like these two emperors. He believes the words of the Shingon teachers, the Zen
sect, the Ritsu priests, those who observe the precepts and the Nembutsu priests, all of them enemies of the Lotus Sutra,
and treats me, Nichiren, with animosity. Although I am of lowly birth, I embrace the Lotus Sutra, which Shakyamuni, Taho,
all the Buddhas of the ten directions, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, the dragon
deities, Tensho Daijin, and Bodhisattva Hachiman protect and treasure, just as people treasure and are unwilling to part with
their eyes, as the heavenly gods revere Taishaku, or as a mother loves her child. Therefore, all these Buddhas and gods will
punish those who persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra, even more severely than one would chastise an enemy of his parents
or than the government punishes rebels.
Now you two are the late Jiro Nyudo's son and daughter-in-law. It is perhaps because you are the son and
daughter-in-law of so profoundly wise a man that, following in his footsteps, you not only believe in the Lotus Sutra, which
the ruler of the country himself rejects, but also provide for the votary of the Lotus Sutra, each year bringing me offerings
and traveling a thousand ri to see me. Moreover, on the thirteenth anniversary of the death of your infant daughter, you erected
a sixteen foot sotoba with the seven characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo inscribed on it. When the north wind blows, it is said,
fish in the southern sea who are touched by it will be released from their sufferings; and when the wind comes from the east,
birds and deer in the western mountains who come in contact with it will escape from the path of Animality and be born in
the inner court of the Tushita Heaven. How much greater still will be the blessings of those human beings who rejoice at this
sotoba, touch it with their hands, or gaze upon it with their eyes! I believe that because of the benefit derived from your
erecting this sotoba, your deceased parents must be illuminating the pure land as brilliantly as would the sun and moon in
the heavens. Furthermore, you yourselves, their filial son and his wife, as well as your children, will live to be one hundred
and twenty, and after death, you will be with your parents in the pure land of Eagle Peak. You should consider this to be
as certain as the fact that the moon is reflected in clear water, or that a hand drum produces a sound when struck. Should
you erect any sotobas in the future, be sure to have the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra inscribed on them as well.
Written at Mount Minobu
The thirtieth day of the eleventh month in the second year of Koan (1279), cyclical sign tsuchinoto-u
To the wife of Nakaoki Nyudo