Clear Sake Gosho
I have received all your gifts: one container of clear sake, ten metal pouring pots, one hundred steamed rice cakes, one bucket containing perhaps two sho of syrup, a basket of koji oranges1 and ten skewers of dried persimmons. I have read your message that your joy at the beginning of spring2 has unfolded like the cherry blossoms and waxed full like the moon.
Your late son Goro comes inevitably to mind. The blossoms that once fell are about to bloom again, and the withered grasses have begun to sprout anew. Why does the late Goro not return as well? Ah, if he were to come back with the evanescent flowers and grasses, then even though we are not Hitomaro,3 we would wait by the blossoms; even though we are not tethered steeds, we would never leave the grass!
A certain sutra passage says that children are ones enemies.4 Perhaps there is reason for this. The bird known as the owl devours its mother, and the beast called hakei5 destroys its father. A man called An Lu-shan was killed by his son, Shih Shih-ming,6 and the warrior Yoshitomo killed his father, Tameyoshi. Thus the sutra has grounds for saying that children are ones enemies.
Another sutra passage says that children are a treasure. King Myoshogon was destined, after his life had ended, to fall into the hell called the great citadel of incessant suffering, but he was saved by his son, the crown prince Jozo. Not only was he able to escape the sufferings of that great hell, but he became a Buddha called Sal Tree King. A woman called Shodai-nyo, for the faults of greed and stinginess, was confined in the realm of hungry spirits, but she was saved by her son Maudgalyayana and was freed from that realm.7 Thus the sutras statement that children are a treasure is in no way false.
The late Goro was sixteen years old. Not only did he surpass others in his disposition and good looks, but he was fully endowed with a mans strengths and was praised by all. Moreover, his obedience to his parents will was like water taking the shape of its container or a shadow following a body. You relied upon him as the pillar of your household; you thought of him as your staff upon the road. All the wealth in your family coffers existed for this child; so did the family retainers. You must have been firmly convinced that, when you died, you would be carried by him on his back to the graveyard, and that there would be nothing left for you to worry about. But lamentably, he has preceded you in death. "Why, why did this happen? It must be a dream, an illusion! I will wake up, I will wake up!" you must have thought. But without your having awakened, already one year has given way to the next. You do not know how long you will have to wait. You must feel that, if only he had left word where you could go and meet him, then without wings, you would soar to the heavens, or without a boat, you would cross over to China. If you heard he was in the bowels of the earth, then how could you fail to dig into the ground?
And yet there is a way to meet him readily. With Shakyamuni Buddha as your guide, you can go to meet him in the pure land of Eagle Peak. The sutra states, "If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood."8 This means that even if one were to point at the earth and miss it, even if the sun and moon should fall to the ground, even if an age should come when the tides cease to ebb and flow, or even if flowers should not turn to fruit in summer, it could never happen that a woman who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo would fail to be reunited with her beloved child. Continue in your devotion to faith and bring this about quickly!
With my deep respect,
The thirteenth day of the first month
Reply to Ueno-ama Gozen
Lotus Sutra, chap. 2.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.
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