I have received the white quilted robe and the ten ryo of cotton that you
were kind enough to send. The year is drawing to a close, and here in the mountains where I live, the wind blows fiercely
and my little dwelling is as full of holes as a wicker basket. I have the leaves of plants for my floor covering and wear
clothes made of paper, so that my body becomes as cold as a stone, and the things I have to eat are like ice. When I received
the quilted robe, I thought that I would put it on immediately and get warm, but you had written that it was for New Year’s
Day of the coming year. I wonder if even the Venerable Mahakashyapa, who retired to Mount Kukkutapada to await the coming
of the Honored One of Compassion 5,670 million years in the future, could feel as impatient as I do.
But enough of that. Shiiji Shiro told me that you have been discussing the
Buddhist teachings in the presence of your lord, which delights me no end. In reward, I will write to you now about a very
Most people, both the wise and the ignorant, will tell you that Great Bodhisattva
Hachiman is a manifestation of Amida Buddha, and this claim is not without reason. In the documents of middle antiquity and
in oracles from Hachiman himself, there have been a few instances when he was identified with Amida Buddha. This has come
about because people have each at heart become Nembutsu believers, so that they are like someone who mistakes a red stone
for a lump of gold or who sees a stump in the field and thinks it is a hare.
The truth is that Hachiman is a manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha. I say
this because in the province of Osumi there is an inscription on a stone to that effect. That stone is now broken into two.
On one part are written the two characters that comprise the name Hachiman. The other part bears this inscription: "Long ago
on Eagle Peak he preached the Lotus Sutra. Now he has manifested himself as the Great Bodhisattva and resides in the main
shrine." This is the first proof that Hachiman is Shakyamuni Buddha.
But there is even more definite proof Great Bodhisattva Hachiman’s
father was Emperor Chuai, the fourteenth human sovereign of Japan, and his mother was Empress Jingu, the fifteenth sovereign.
[Their son,] Emperor Ojin, the sixteenth sovereign, was the one now known as Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.
His father, Emperor Chuai, being commanded by the Sun Goddess, was about
to cross the ocean to attack the kingdom of Silla [on the Korean Peninsula]. But the king of Silla put a curse on him, and
as a result Emperor Chuai passed away at Hakata. At that time his consort, Empress Jingu, was already pregnant with the prince.
But in order to avenge the late emperor, she amassed a force of several tens of thousands of horsemen and crossed the sea
to the kingdom of Silla.
While the ship was still on the waves, she could feel that the hour had
come for her child to be born. At that time Empress Jingu addressed the babe in her womb, saying, "Are you a prince, or are
you a girl child? If you are a prince, then listen well to what I say. I am crossing over to the land of Silla in order to
attack the enemy of your father, Emperor Chuai. Since I am only a woman, I want you to act as my commander in chief. If you
are destined to be the sovereign of Japan, then you must not be born just now, but must remain in my womb during the time
of battle and from there serve as commander in chief to my tens of thousands of horsemen and carry out the attack on your
father’s enemy. But if you do not heed my words and instead insist upon being born at once, then I will cast you into
the sea. You must not bear a grudge against me!"
The child accordingly remained in the womb as before. At that time the empress
donned a belt made of stones in order to chill her womb and proceeded on her way to Silla where she subjugated the kingdom.
When she returned to Japan, she went to the Usa Shrine in the province of Buzen, and there her child was born. He had been
in the womb for three years, six months and three days, and was born on the eighth day of the fourth month of a year with
the cyclical sign kinoe-tora. This was the child who was later to be known as Emperor Ojin. At the age of eighty, he passed
away on the fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign mizunoe-saru. He is the chief god of Mount Otoko, a
guardian deity to the dynasty that rules our country. His enshrined form is not particularly unusual, but he is nevertheless
revered for his mysterious powers. He is the deity now known as Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.
Now Shakyamuni Buddha was born in the kalpa of continuance in the ninth
period of decrease, when the human life span measured a hundred years. His father was King Shuddhodana and his mother, Lady
Maya. He was born in the state of Kapilavastu in central India, in a place called the Lumbini Gardens, on the eighth day of
the fourth month of a year with the sign kinoe-tora. After living for eighty years, he passed away on the banks of the Ajitavati
River at Kushinagara in eastern India on the fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign mizunoe-saru. It was
the same with the present Great Bodhisattva Hachiman. Though one was born in India and the other in Japan, and though they
had different fathers and mothers, both were born on the eighth day of the fourth month of a year with the sign kinoe-tora
and died on the fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign mizunoe-saru.
During the 2,220 and more years since the Buddha passed away, whether in
India, China, Japan or anywhere else in the entire land of Jambudvipa, those born as sages and worthy men are all said to
have been manifestations of Shakyamuni Buddha. But no one has ever heard of such a coincidence as the one I have just pointed
In addition to this strange coincidence, there is the matter of Great Bodhisattva
Hachiman’s vow. When he preached the Lotus Sutra [as Shakyamuni Buddha] in India, he said, "Honestly discarding expedient
means... ," and in Japan he vowed that he would make his residence on the heads of honest persons. Nevertheless, on the fourteenth
day of last month, the eleventh month, at the Hour of the Rat (around 12:00 P.M.), he burned down his sacred shrine and ascended
to the heavens. if we consider the reason, we Will see that, though this deity had vowed to reside on the heads of honest
persons, there were no longer any honest persons on whose heads he might reside. Being thus left without a dwelling place,
he ascended to the heavens.
But the strangest thing of all in this country of Japan is the fact that,
although its people have been born in a land related to Shakyamuni Buddha, they have discarded this Buddha, and all, every
one of them alike, have become followers of Amida Buddha. They have cast aside Shakyamuni, with whom they have a deep bond,
and pay reverence to Amida Buddha, with whom they have no connection at all.
In addition, they have taken the day when Shakyamuni Buddha, their father,
passed away, and assigned it to Amida Buddha, and taken the day when he was born, and assigned it to Yakushi [Buddha]. And
though they appear to pay reverence to Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, they claim that his true identity is Amida Buddha. Not
only have they discarded both true identity and manifestation, but they treat as an enemy anyone who tries to point out their
error. That is no doubt the reason why this deity, Hachiman, being powerless to correct the situation, has ascended to the
The moon will cast its image on water, but its reflection will not dwell
in muddy water. However, it will be mirrored even in the drops of dew on the trees above and on the leaves of the grass, if
the dew is clear and pure. And in the same way, Hachiman will undoubtedly take up his residence on the head of an honest person,
even though that person may not be the ruler of the nation.
Hachiman has vowed to take up residence on the heads of a hundred rulers.
And yet he did not reside on the heads of the five rulers of our nation, namely, the eighty-first sovereign, Emperor Antoku;
the eighty-second sovereign, the Retired Emperor of Oki; the eighty-third sovereign, the Retired Emperor of Awa; the eighty-fourth
sovereign, the Retired Emperor of Sado; and the eighty-fifth sovereign, the Emperor of Higashi Ichijo. He declined to do so
because they had the heads of men who are fawning and crooked. Instead, he took up residence on the heads of Yoritomo and
Yoshitoki, though these men were mere servants of the throne. This was no doubt because they were honest men.
On considering this, we can see that because persons who put their faith
in the Lotus Sutra are following an honest doctrine, Shakyamuni Buddha himself will protect them. How then could it happen
that Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, who is his manifestation, would fail to protect them?
Though water may be pure at the outset, if it becomes muddied, the moon
will not shine in it. But even though night soil is filthy, when it clears, the moon will not begrudge its reflection. The
muddied water may be pure in nature, yet the moon will not shine in it. But the night soil, though impure in nature, will
reflect the moon’s rays if it clears.
The muddy water may be likened to learned priests and eminent scholars who
keep the precepts but turn their backs on the Lotus Sutra. The night soil may be likened to ignorant people without precepts
whose greed is profound and whose anger is intense, but who put undivided faith in the Lotus Sutra alone.
The scripture known as the Nirvana Sutra lists the beings that have been
able to attain the way through the Lotus Sutra, and the list includes such filthy creatures as dung beetles, vipers and scorpions.
To express the wonderful power of the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. says that it enables "even such creatures as dung
beetles to attain Buddhahood."
The Nirvana Sutra also refers to persons who cannot become Buddhas even
through the Lotus Sutra, defining them as icchantika, or those of incorrigible disbelief, who appear to be like arhats or
like great bodhisattvas. They are like the muddy water that, though originally pure, will not reflect the moonlight. Thus
Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, because he hates dishonesty, has ascended to the heavens. But when he sees the votaries of the
Lotus Sutra, how could he begrudge shedding his light on them?
My followers should believe the truth of this matter firmly. Great Bodhisattva
Hachiman dwells with us here. Have no doubt about it! Have no doubt about it!
With my deep respect,
The sixteenth day of the twelfth month
Reply to the wife of Shijo Kingo