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The Izu Exile

I have received rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, sake, dried rice, peppers, paper and other items from the messenger whom you took the trouble of sending. He also conveyed your message that this offering should be kept secret. I understand.

On the twelfth day of the fifth month, having been exiled, I arrived at the harbor. When I left the boat, still in suffering, and even before learning your name, you kindly took me into your care. What destiny brought us together? You might have been a votary of the Lotus Sutra in times past. Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, you were born as Funamori Yasaburo to take pity on me. Being a man, it was perhaps natural for you to act as you did, but your wife might have been less inclined to help me. Nevertheless, she gave me food, brought me water to wash my hands and feet and treated me with great concern. It is beyond me to fathom [this karmic relationship]; I can only describe it as wondrous.

What caused you to believe in the Lotus Sutra and to make offerings to me during my more than thirty-day stay there? I was hated and resented by the steward and people of the district even more than I was in Kamakura. Those who saw me scowled, while those who merely heard my name were filled with spite. And yet, though I was there in the fifth month when rice was scarce, you secretly fed me. It would almost seem as though my parents had been reborn in Kawana close to Ito in Izu Province.

The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, ‘[If after I {Shakyamuni) have entered extinction there are those who can expound this sutra, I will send... monks and nuns and] men and women of pure faith, to offer alms to the teachers of the Law.’ The meaning of this sutra passage is that the heavenly gods and benevolent deities will assume various forms such as men and women and present offerings to help one who practices the Lotus Sutra. There can be no doubt that you and your wife were born as just such a man and woman of pure faith and now make offerings to the teacher of the Law, Nichiren.

Since I wrote to you in detail earlier, I will make this letter brief. But I would like to mention one thing in particular. When the steward of this district sent me a request to pray for his recovery from illness, I wondered if I should accept it. But since he showed some degree of faith in me, I decided I would appeal to the Lotus Sutra. If I did, I saw no reason why the ten demon daughters should not join forces to aid me. I therefore addressed the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni, Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten directions, the Sun Goddess, Hachiman and the other deities, both major and minor. I was sure that they would consider my request and respond. Certainly they would never forsake me, but would respond as attentively as a person rubs a sore or scratches an itch. And as it turned out, the steward recovered. In gratitude he presented me with a statue of the Buddha which had appeared from the sea along with a catch of fish. He did so because his illness had finally ended, an illness which I am certain was inflicted by the ten demon daughters. The benefit of his recovery will pass on to you and your wife.

We, living beings, have dwelt in the sea of the sufferings of birth and death since time without beginning. But now that we have become votaries of the Lotus Sutra, we will without fail attain the Buddha’s entity which is as indestructible as a diamond, realizing that our bodies and minds that have existed since the beginningless past1 are inherently endowed with the eternally unchanging nature, and thus awakening to our mystic reality with our mystic wisdom.

Then how can we be in any way different from the Buddha who appeared from the sea? Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, who declared in the remote past of gohyaku-jintengo, "I am the only person [who can rescue and protect others,]" is none other than each of us, living beings. This is the Lotus Sutra’s doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, and our behavior is a personal demonstration of "I am always here, preaching the Law."2 How valuable, then, are the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha for us, but we, ordinary people, are never aware of it. This is the meaning of the passage in the Juryo chapter, "I make it so that living beings in their befuddlement do not see me even when close by." The difference between delusion and enlightenment is like the four different views of the grove of sal trees.3 Let it be known that the Buddha with the three thousand realms in a single moment of life is any living being in any of the realms of existence who manifests his inherent Buddhahood.

The demon who appeared before Sessen Doji was Taishaku in disguise. The dove which sought the protection of King Shibi was the god Bishukatsuma,4 King Fumyo,5 who was imprisoned in the castle of King Hanzoku, was Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. The eyes of common mortals cannot see their true identities, but the eyes of the Buddha can. As the sutra states, the sky and the sea both have paths for birds and fish to come and go. A wooden statue [of the Buddha] is itself a golden Buddha, and a golden Buddha is a wooden statue. Aniruddha’s gold was seen first as a hare and then as a corpse.6 Sand in the palm of Mahanama’s7 hand turned into gold. These things are beyond ordinary understanding. A common mortal is a Buddha, and a Buddha a common mortal. This is exactly what is meant by the doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life and by the phrase, "I in fact attained Buddhahood."8

Thus it is quite possible that you and your wife have appeared here as reincarnations of the lord of teachings, the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment, in order to help me. Although the distance between Ito and Kawana is short, we are not allowed to communicate openly. I am writing this letter for your future reference. Do not discuss these matters with other people, but ponder them yourself. If anyone should learn anything at all about this letter, it will go hard with you. Keep this deep in your heart, and never speak about it. With my deepest regard. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.


The twenty-seventh day of the sixth month in the first year of Kocho (1261)

To be sent to Funamori Yasaburo.


  1. The Lord Shakyamuni.... at a time even more distant than gohyaku-jintengo: Refers not to Gautama Buddha in India, but to the eternal Buddha who has continued to exist since time without beginning. The phrase, "a time even more distant than gohyaku-jintengo," indicates that the Daishonin is shifting his reference from the temporal framework of gohyaku-jintengo to that of kuon ganjo, time without either beginning or end.
  2. Lotus Sutra, chap. 16.
  3. Four different views of the grove of sal trees: The grove of sal trees was where Shakyamuni expounded his last teaching, the Nirvana Sutra, and died. The four different views represent the four kinds of lands: the land of enlightened and unenlightened beings, the land of transition, the land of actual reward, and the land of eternal light. According to the capacity and life condition of people, the grove of sal trees is viewed in four different ways, that is, as a grove composed of earth, trees, plants and stone walls; as a place adorned with seven kinds of treasure, including gold and silver; as a place where all Buddhas practice Buddhism; and as the eternal, enlightened land of the Buddha.
  4. Bishukatsuma: (Skt Viivakarman) A god who serves the god Taishaku, who lives on Mt. Sumeru. His story appears in the Daichido Ron. When Shakyamuni in a past existence practiced Buddhist austerities as King Shibi, Taishaku assumed the form of a hawk, and Bishukatsuma, that of a dove, as a test of the king's sincerity. In order to save the dove, Shibi gave his life, offering his flesh to the hungry hawk.
  5. Fumyo: Name of Shakyamuni when he engaged in the practice of observing precepts in a past existence. King Fumyo and ninety-nine other kings (nine hundred and ninety-nine kings according to another source) were captured by King Hanzoku and were about to be killed. In grief, Fumyo said to King Hanzoku, "When I was taken from my country, I had promised offering to a certain monk. I am not trying to avoid death, but breaking that promise is hard to bear." King Fumyo received seven days' grace and returned to his country. He gave the monk offerings and transferred the throne to his son. After proclaiming to his people that keeping a promise is the most important precept, he returned to King Hanzoku. Hanzoku was so impressed by Fumyo's sincerity that he released not only Fumyo but the ninety-nine other kings as well. Furthermore, he was converted to Buddhism.
  6. Aniruddha's gold was seen first as a rabbit and then as a corpse: Aniruddha was one of the ten major disciples of Shakyamuni and was known as "foremost in divine insight." He was a cousin of Shakyamuni. The Sanskrit aniruddha, means to be unobstructed, or to gratify every wish and be without desire. His story appears in the first volume of T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Mongu. Long ago, a pratyekabuddha named Rida engaged in the practice of begging alms but gained nothing. Seeing this, a poor man offered him barnyard millet. Later, when the poor man went deep into a mountain to find millet for Rida, a rabbit happened to jump on his back and then turned into a corpse. Frightened, he tried to shake it off, but in vain. As soon as he arrived at his house, however, the corpse fell off and turned into gold. Hearing of this, wicked men came to rob him of the gold, but to them it looked like a mere corpse. To the eye of the poor man, however, it was a genuine treasure of gold, and he became wealthy. Ninety-nine aeons later, he was born as Aniruddha.
  7. Mahanama: One of the five bhikkhus, or ascetic monks. When Shakyamuni forsook the secular world and entered the religious life, his father, the king, ordered five men to accompany him. They followed and practiced asceticism with Shakyamuni, but left him when he renounced ascetic practices. However, shortly after Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, he preached his first sermon to them at Samath, known as the Deer Park, and they became his first disciples. The exact identity of these five ascetics is unknown. According to the Zoichi Agon Sutra, however, Mahanama is said to have possessed occult Powers. The story of "sand in his palm turning into gold" appears in Ts'ung-i's supplementary note to T'ien-t'ai's three major works on the Lotus Sutra.
  8. Lotus Sutra, chap. 10. Shakyamuni explained his original enlightenment by saying that he had actually attained enlightenment in gohyaku-jintengo, revealing his true identity. Nichiren Daishonin revealed the deeper meaning of the phrase, "since I in fact attained Buddhahood." In his orally transmitted teachings, he states that "I" indicates all people of the Ten Worlds in the universe, while "attain" means to open and reveal. Accordingly, "attain Buddhahood" signifies that people of the Ten Worlds can reveal their eternally inherent Buddha nature.

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 2.

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