Letter of Petition from Yorimoto
On the twenty-fifth day of the sixth month I respectfully read your official letter of the twenty-third, which I received through the intermediaries Shimada no Saemon Nyudo and Yamashiro no Mimbu Nyudo. In the letter you state: "I am shocked to hear that all those present on that occasion are unanimous in saying that you behaved in a disorderly manner at the place where Priest Ryuzo was preaching. They say you interrupted with a group of your cohorts, all wearing weapons."
That is a groundless falsehood. I do not know who told you so, but surely it would be fitting if, out of pity for me, you were to summon them to confront me in your presence and inquire into the truth or falsehood of their accusations.
Briefly, the root of this matter is as follows. On the ninth day of the sixth month, Sammi-ko, who is a disciple of the sage Nichiren, came to my residence and said: "Recently a priest named Ryuzo-bo has arrived from Kyoto and settled in Kuwagayatsu, west of the gate of the Daibutsu-den. He preaches day and night, urging those who have questions about Buddhism to come and hold discourse with him in order to settle their doubts about this life and the next. All the people in Kamakura, high and low, revere him as they would Shakyamuni Buddha. However, I hear that no one has ever actually debated with him. I want to go to Kuwagayatsu to debate with him and clarify whatever doubts the people might have about their next life. Won't you come and listen?"
At that time I was busy with official matters, so I did not originally intend to accompany him. However, I had heard that it concerned the Buddhist teachings, and I often went to hear preaching on that subject. Being a lay believer, however, I never said a single word. Therefore, I believe that a strict investigation on your part should be sufficient to reveal that I was not in any way abusive.
In any event, during his sermon, Ryuzo-bo said, "If anyone among you has a question about the Buddhist teachings, please do not hesitate to ask." Thereupon Sammi-ko, the disciple of the priest Nichiren, raised the following question: "That death is inevitable from the time of birth is certainly no cause for surprise; in addition, especially in recent times, countless people in Japan have perished in calamities. No one can fail to realize this transience, which lies before our very eyes. Under these circumstances I heard that you, a respected priest, had come from Kyoto to dispel the doubts of the people, so I came to listen. I was feeling hesitant, thinking it rude to ask a question in the middle of your sermon, so I am happy that you have invited anyone who has doubts to speak freely.
"What puzzles me first of all is this: I am a lowly person, born in the Latter Day of the Law in a remote land [far from the birthplace of Buddhism]. Yet fortunately Buddhism, which originated in India, has already been introduced to this country. One should embrace it by all means. However, the sutras amount to no less than five or seven thousand volumes. Since they are the teachings of a single Buddha, they must essentially be one sutra. But Buddhism is divided into eight sects, if one includes Kegon and Shingon, or ten sects, if one includes Jodo and Zen. Although these sects represent different gates of entry, I would presume that their truth must ultimately be one.
"However, the Great Teacher Kobo, the founder of the Shingon sect in Japan, said, 'The Lotus Sutra, when compared to the Kegon and Dainichi sutras, not only represents a different gate but is a doctrine of childish theory, and the Buddha who expounded it is still in the region of darkness.' He also stated, 'The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai of the Hokke [Lotus] school and others have vied with one another to steal the ghee [of the Shingon].' The Great Teacher Tz'u-en, the founder of the Hosso school, said, 'The Lotus Sutra is expedient while the Jimmitsu Sutra is true; those sentient beings without the nature of enlightenment can never attain Buddhahood throughout eternity.'
"Ch'eng-kuan of the Kegon school said, 'The Kegon Sutra represents the root teaching and the Lotus Sutra, the branch teachings.' He also said, 'The Kegon Sutra is the teaching of enlightenment for the people of the sudden teaching, and the Lotus Sutra, the teaching of enlightenment for the people of the gradual teaching.' The Great Teacher Chi-hsiang of the Sanron school said, 'Of all the Mahayana sutras, the Hannya sutras are supreme.' Priest Shan-tao of the Jodo or Pure Land school said, 'Of those who practice the Nembutsu, ten persons out of ten and a hundred persons out of a hundred will be reborn in the Pure Land. However, not one in a thousand can be saved by the Lotus and other sutras.' Priest Honen urged people to 'discard, close, ignore and abandon' the Lotus Sutra in favor of the Nembutsu, and also likened the votaries of the Lotus Sutra to 'a band of robbers.' And the Zen sect declares itself to represent 'a special transmission outside the sutras, independent of the written word.'
"Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, said of the Lotus Sutra, 'The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth.' And Taho Buddha declared of Myoho-renge-kyo, 'All that you [Shakyamuni] have expounded is the truth.' The sutra also states that the various Buddhas of the ten directions, who were emanations of Shakyamuni, extended their tongues to the Brahma Heaven.
"The Great Teacher Kobo wrote that the Lotus Sutra is a doctrine of childish theory. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all the Buddhas of the ten directions unanimously declared that all its teachings are true. Which of all these statements are we to believe?
"Priests Shan-tao and Honen said of the Lotus Sutra that 'not one in a thousand can be saved by it,' and that one should 'discard, close, ignore and abandon' it. However, Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha and all the Buddhas of the ten directions, who are emanations of Shakyamuni, assert that [of those who embrace the Lotus Sutra,] none shall fail to attain Buddhahood, and that all shall achieve the Buddha Way. Shakyamuni, Taho and all the other Buddhas, and Priests Shan-tao and Honen, are in their statements as far apart as fire and water, or clouds and mud.
"Which of them are we to believe? Which of them are we to reject?
"In particular, of the forty-eight vows of the monk Hozo mentioned in the Muryogi Sutra, which both Shan-tao and Honen revere, the eighteenth vow states, 'Should I attain Buddhahood...excepting only those who commit the five cardinal sins or who slander the True Law.' Surely this means that even if Amida Buddha's original vow is true and enables one to attain rebirth in the Pure Land, those who slander the True Law are excluded from rebirth in the land of Amida Buddha."
"Now the second volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, 'One who refuses to take faith in this sutra [and instead slanders it]...After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell.' If these scriptural passages are true, then how can Shan-tao and Honen, who both regarded the Nembutsu sect as representing the essence of Buddhism, escape falling into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell? And if these two priests fall into hell, there can be no doubt that the scholars, disciples and lay believers who follow in their footsteps will also as a matter of course fall into the evil paths. These are the matters that perplex me. What is your opinion, Priest Ryuzo?" In this manner, Sammi-ko posed his question.
Priest Ryuzo answered, "How could I doubt the worthies and learned men of high antiquity? Ordinary priest that I am, I believe them with profound reverence." Then Sammi-ko retorted, saying, "These words do not impress me as those of a wise man. Everyone believes in those Buddhist teachers who were revered in their own time. But the Buddha enjoins us in the Nirvana Sutra as his final instruction, 'Rely on the Law and not upon persons.' The Buddha taught us to rely on the sutras if the Buddhist teachers should be in error. You say those teachers could not possibly be in error, but between the Buddha's golden words and your personal opinion, I am committed to the former."
Then Priest Ryuzo asked, "When you speak of the many errors of the Buddhist teachers, to which teachers do you refer?" Sammi-ko answered, "I refer to the doctrines of the Great Teacher Kobo and Priest Honen, whom I mentioned before." Priest Ryuzo exclaimed, "That is impossible! I would not dare discuss the teachers of our nation. The people in this audience all follow in their footsteps. If they are angered, they will surely create an uproar. That would be a fearsome thing."
Then Sammi-ko attacked him, saying, "Because you asked me to specify which teachers were in error, I mentioned those whose teachings contradict the sutras and treatises. But now you suddenly have reservations and refuse to discuss the matter. I think that you merely perceive your own dilemma. In matters of doctrine, to fear others or stand in awe of society's opinion, and not expound the true meaning of the scriptural passages in accordance with the Buddha's teaching, is the height of foolishness. You do not appear to be a wise man. As a priest, how can you not speak out when evil doctrines spread throughout the land, when the people fall into the evil paths and the country stands on the brink of ruin? That is why the Lotus Sutra reads, 'We do not hold our own lives dear,' and the Nirvana Sutra says, '...even though it may cost him his life.' If you are a true sage, how can you begrudge your life in fear of the world or of other people?
"Even in non-Buddhist literature we find mention of a man named Lung-p'eng, who was beheaded, and of the worthy Pi Kan, who had his chest torn open. But because Lung-p'eng remonstrated with King Chieh of the Hsia dynasty and Pi Kan admonished King Chou of the Yin dynasty, their names have been handed down in history as those of worthy men.
"The Buddhist scriptures tell us that Bodhisattva Fukyo was beaten with staves, the Venerable Aryasimha was beheaded, the monk Chu Tao-sheng was banished to a mountain in Suchou, and the Learned Doctor Fa-tao was branded on the face and exiled to the area south of the Yangtze River. Yet because they propagated the True Law, they gained the name of sages."
The Priest Ryuzo replied, "Such people cannot possibly appear in the latter age. We are the sort who fear society and dread the opinions of others. Even though you speak so boldly, I doubt that you actually live up to your words."
Priest Sammi-ko retorted, "How can you possibly know another's mind? Let me tell you that I am a disciple of the sage Nichiren, who is now widely known throughout the country. Although the sage, my master, is a priest in the latter age, unlike the eminent priests of our day, he neither seeks invitations, nor does he flatter people, nor has he earned the slightest bad reputation in secular matters.
"He simply declares, in light of the sutras, that because the evil teachings of such sects as the Shingon, Zen and Jodo as well as slanderous priests fill this country, and everyone from the ruler on down to the multitudes of common people has taken faith in them, the people have all become archenemies of the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings. In this life they will be forsaken by the gods of heaven and earth and suffer invasion by a foreign country, and in the next life they will fall into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell.
"He has said that if he declares such a thing, he will incur great enmity, but that if he does not, he cannot escape the Buddha's condemnation. The Nirvana Sutra says, 'If even a good priest sees someone slandering the Law and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then that priest is betraying Buddhism.' Realizing that if in fear of the world's opinion he did not speak out, he would fall into the evil paths, my master has risked his life for more than two decades, from the Kencho era through this third year of the Kenji era (1277), without slackening in the least. Therefore he has undergone countless persecutions at the hands of individuals, and twice he has even incurred the ruler's displeasure. I myself was one of those who accompanied him when the wrath of the authorities fell upon him on the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of the Bun'ei era (1271), and I was considered equally guilty and came close to being beheaded myself. Despite all this, do you still say that I hold my own life dear?"
As Ryuzo-bo closed his mouth and turned pale, Sammi-ko persisted: "With such paltry wisdom it is unwarranted for you to declare that you will dispel the people's doubts. The monks Kugan and Shoi thought they knew the True Law and intended to save the people, but they fell into the hell of incessant suffering along with their disciples and lay believers. If you, with your limited knowledge of Buddhist doctrines, preach in an attempt to save many people, then surely you and your followers will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. You had better reconsider such preaching from this day forth. I had not felt that I should speak in this way; but I, too, cannot be exempted from the Buddha's warning that if one sees a misguided priest sending others into hell with his evil teachings and fails to reproach that priest and expose his errors, then he himself is an enemy of Buddhism. Moreover, I feel pity that all those, both high and low, who listen to your preaching will fall into the evil paths. Therefore I am speaking out in this way. A wise man is so called because he admonishes the ruler when the country is endangered or because he corrects others' mistaken views. But in your case I can do nothing, because, no matter what error you may see, you will no doubt refuse to correct it for fear of society's reaction. Even if I had Monju's wisdom and Purna's eloquence, they would be wasted on you." So saying, Sammi-ko rose to leave; but the members of the audience, rejoicing, joined their palms together and sought to detain him, imploring him to teach them the Buddhist doctrines for a little while. However, Sammi-ko left.
I have no further details to add, so you may surmise what really happened. How could a person who believes in the Lotus Sutra and aspires to the Buddha Way possibly contemplate misbehavior or deliberately use foul language when the Buddhist teaching is being expounded? However, I leave this to your judgment.
Having declared myself to be a follower of the sage Nichiren, I returned home and reported to you exactly what had happened during the debate. Moreover, no one was present on that occasion whom I did not know. What you heard must have been the fabrication of those who harbor jealousy against me. If you quickly summon them to face me in your presence, the truth of the matter will be brought to light.
In your official letter you also state, "I revere the elder of Gokuraku-ji temple as the World-Honored One reborn," but this I cannot accept. The reason is: if what the sutra states is true, the sage Nichiren is the envoy of the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past, the provisional manifestation of Bodhisattva Jogyo, the votary of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and the great leader in the fifth five-hundred-year period [following the Buddha's passing]. In an attempt to have this sage executed, Priest Ryokan submitted a letter of petition to the authorities proposing that he be beheaded; but for some reason the execution was not carried out, and he was instead exiled far away to Sado Island. Was this not the doing of Priest Ryokan? I am sending you a copy of his petition together with this letter.
Even though Priest Ryokan preaches day and night on each of the six days of purification against killing even a blade of grass, he actually proposed that the priest who propagates the true teaching of the Lotus Sutra be beheaded. Has he not contradicted his own words? Is Priest Ryokan himself not possessed by the Devil of the Sixth Heaven?
Let me explain how this situation came about. Whenever Priest Ryokan preached, he would lament, saying, "I am endeavoring to help all people in Japan become 'observers of the precepts' and to have them uphold the eight precepts so that an end can be put to all the killings in this country and the drunkenness in the realm; but Nichiren's slander has prevented me from achieving my desire." Hearing of this, the sage Nichiren declared, "Somehow I must overthrow the delusion of his great arrogance and save him from the agonies of the hell of incessant suffering." Hearing this, I, Yorimoto, and his other disciples all anxiously advised him, saying: "Even though you speak out of profound compassion as a champion of the Lotus Sutra, since Priest Ryokan is revered throughout Japan, especially by the samurai in Kamakura, you should perhaps refrain from making strong statements."
Then, at the time of the great drought, the government ordered Priest Ryokan to perform a ceremony for rain on the eighteenth day of the sixth month in the eighth year of the Bun'ei era (1271), cyclical sign kanoto-hitsuji, in order to save the people. Hearing this news, the sage Nichiren said, "Although prayers for rain are a trifling matter, perhaps I should take this opportunity to demonstrate to everyone the power of the Law that I embrace." He sent a message to Priest Ryokan's place, saying: "If Priest Ryokan brings about rainfall within seven days, I, Nichiren, will stop teaching that the Nembutsu leads to the hell of incessant suffering and become his disciple, observing the two hundred and fifty precepts. But if no rain falls, that will show clearly that Priest Ryokan is deliberately confusing and misleading others, though he appears to be observing the precepts. In ancient times there were many instances in which the supremacy of one teaching over another was determined through prayers for rain, such as the challenge between Gomyo and the Great Teacher Dengyo, or between Shubin and Kobo."
The sage Nichiren sent this message to the priest Ryokan through the intermediaries Suo-bo and Irusawa no Nyudo, who are Nembutsu believers. This priest and lay priest are Ryokan's disciples, as well as Nembutsu believers, and do not yet believe in Nichiren's teaching. So the sage Nichiren said to them: "We will decide whose teachings are correct through this prayer for rain. If it rains within seven days, you can believe that you will be reborn in the Pure Land by virtue of the eight precepts and the Nembutsu, which you already uphold. But if it does not rain, you should place your faith in the Lotus Sutra alone." Delighted to hear this, the two delivered the message to the priest Ryokan at Gokuraku-ji temple.
With tears of joy, the priest Ryokan, along with more than 120 of his disciples, offered prayers, with the sweat of their faces rising up in steam and their voices resounding to the heavens. They chanted the Nembutsu, the Shou Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, and Ryokan preached on the eight precepts in an effort to produce rainfall within seven days. When no sign of rain appeared after four or five days, he grew frantic and summoned hundreds of his disciples from Taho-ji temple to join him, exhausting all his powers of prayer. But within seven days not a drop of rain fell.
At that time, the sage Nichiren sent a messenger to him on no less than three occasions, saying: "A wanton woman called Izumi Shikibu and a priest named Noin who broke the precepts were each able to cause rain immediately with just a thirty-one-syllable poem that made little sense and was full of excess flourishes. Why is it, then, that Priest Ryokan - who observes all the precepts and rules, has mastered the Hokke and Shingon doctrines and is renowned as the foremost in compassion - cannot produce rainfall within seven days, even when assisted by hundreds of his followers? Consider this: if one cannot cross a moat ten feet wide, can he cross one that is twenty or thirty feet? If you cannot bring about rainfall, which is easy, how can you attain rebirth and enlightenment in the Pure Land, which is difficult?
"Accordingly you should from this point on revise your prejudiced views which lead you to hate Nichiren. If you fear for your next life, come to me immediately as you have promised. I will teach you the Law that causes rain to fall and the path that leads to Buddhahood. Have you not failed to produce rain within seven days? The drought intensifies and the eight winds blow all the more violently, while the people's grief grows deeper and deeper. Stop your prayers immediately." When the messenger conveyed Nichiren's message word for word at the Hour of the Monkey (3:00 - 5:00 P.M.) on the seventh day, Priest Ryokan wept and his disciples and followers also cried aloud in their chagrin.
When the priest Nichiren incurred the wrath of the Kamakura government and was asked about this matter, he told the story as it really happened. So he said: "If Priest Ryokan had had any sense of shame, he would have disappeared from public view and retired to a mountain forest. Or, if he had become my disciple as he had promised, then he would have shown at least a little seeking spirit. But in actuality, he made endless false accusations against me in an attempt to have me executed. Is this the conduct of a noble priest?" I, Yorimoto, also personally observed the situation. Where other affairs are concerned, I would not dare to address my lord in this fashion, but in this matter alone, however I may consider it, I find I cannot remain silent.
You state in your official letter, "After meeting the priest Ryuzo and the elder of Gokuraku-ji temple, I look up to them as I would to Shakyamuni or Amida Buddha." Addressing this statement, too, with the utmost respect, I must point out that while in Kyoto, Priest Ryuzo was feeding morning and evening on human flesh; and when this became known, the priests of Enryaku-ji temple of Mount Hiei rose up against him, saying: "The world has entered the latter age and evil demons are rampant throughout the country. We must subdue them with the power of the Mountain King." They burned down his residence and intended to punish him, but he quickly escaped and no one knew of his whereabouts. Now he has reappeared in Kamakura and is again eating human flesh, causing right-minded people to tremble in fear. Nevertheless, you say you respect him as a Buddha or a bodhisattva. How can I, as your retainer, refrain from pointing out my lord's error? I wonder what the level-headed people in our clan think about this matter.
In the same letter you also state, "To defer to one's lord or parents, whether they are right or wrong, is exemplary conduct according with the will of Buddhas and gods and also with social propriety." As this matter is of the utmost importance, I will refrain from expressing my own opinion and instead cite authoritative works [of sages and worthy men]. The Classic of Filial Piety states, "[In a case of moral wrong,] a son must admonish his father, and a minister must admonish his lord." Cheng Hsuan says, "If a lord or a father behaves unjustly and his minister or son fails to remonstrate with him, then the state or the family will come to ruin." The Shinjo states, "If one fails to remonstrate against his ruler's tyranny, he is not a loyal minister. If one fails to speak out for fear of death, he is not a man of courage."
The Great Teacher Dengyo states, "In general, where unrighteousness is concerned, a son must admonish his father and a minister must admonish his lord. Truly one should know this: as is the case with lord and minister or with father and son, so it is with master and disciple. A disciple must speak out when his master goes astray." The Lotus Sutra states, "We do not hold our own lives dear. We value only the supreme Way." The Nirvana Sutra reads, "For example, if an envoy who is skilled in discussion and knows how to employ clever expedients should be sent to a foreign country to carry out a mission for his sovereign, it is proper that he should relate the words of his ruler without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life. And a wise man should do the same in teaching Buddhism." The Great Teacher Chang-an says, "'[He should relate the words of his ruler] without holding back any of them, even though it may cost him his life.' This means that one's body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. One should give his life in order to propagate the Law." He also states, "He who destroys or brings confusion to the Buddhist Law is an enemy of the Law. If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, he is in fact his enemy. But he who is willing to reprimand and correct the offender...makes it possible for the offender to rid himself of evil, and so he acts like a parent to the offender." My fellow samurai may think that I, Yorimoto, am lacking in propriety [toward you], but in all other, worldly, affairs, I will resolutely heed the words of my lord and my parents.
I can only lament when I see my lord, to whom I am so profoundly indebted, being deceived by those who embrace evil teachings and in danger of falling into the evil paths. Because King Ajatashatru took Devadatta and the six non-Buddhist teachers as his mentors and opposed Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, all the people of the kingdom of Magadha became enemies of Buddhism, and the 580,000 clansmen of the king also opposed the Buddha's disciples. Among them, only Minister Jivaka was the Buddha's disciple. The great king disapproved of his minister's devotion to the Buddha just as my lord disapproves of me, Yorimoto. But in the end he discarded the heretical doctrines of the other six ministers and took faith in the true teaching that Jivaka espoused. Perhaps, in the same way, I will save you in the end.
When I speak thus, you may wonder how I dare compare you to Ajatashatru, who committed the five cardinal sins. But it is clear in the light of the sutra that your offense is a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand times more grave than his, though I hesitate to say such a thing.
The Lotus Sutra states, "Now this threefold world is all my domain. The living beings in it are all my children." If this scriptural statement is correct, then Lord Shakyamuni is the father and mother, teacher and sovereign of all the people in Japan. Amida Buddha does not possess these three virtues. However, you ignore the Buddha of the three virtues and invoke the name of another Buddha [Amida] day and night, morning and evening, sixty or eighty thousand times a day. Is this not an unfilial deed? It was Shakyamuni Buddha himself who originally taught that Amida had vowed to save all people; but in the end he regretted it and said, "I alone can save them." After that, he never again taught that there are two or three Buddhas who can save the people. No one has two fathers or two mothers. What sutra says that Amida is the father of this country? What treatise indicates him as its mother?
The teachings of Nembutsu such as the Kammuryoju Sutra were expounded provisionally, in preparation for the Lotus Sutra. They are like the scaffolding used when building a pagoda. Some think that because [the Nembutsu teachings and the Lotus Sutra] are both a part of Buddhism, they differ only in that one was expounded earlier and one later; but these people are laboring under a profound misconception. They are like someone foolish enough to value the scaffolding even after the pagoda has been completed, or like someone who says that the stars appear brighter than the sun. Concerning such people, the sutra states, "Even though I teach and command, they neither believe nor accept," and "After they die, they will fall into the Avichi Hell."
All the inhabitants of Japan at present are people who reject Shakyamuni Buddha while invoking the name of Amida Buddha, who discard the Lotus Sutra and believe in the Kammuryoju and other sutras. Or they are lay men and women who make offerings to these slanderers, or renowned priests and even the ruler of the country who revere as wise men those who in fact commit the five or seven cardinal sins or the eight offenses. Of such people as all these, the sutra states, "In this way they will be reborn again and again [in the hell of incessant suffering] for kalpas without number."
Being aware to some small degree of these errors, I have ventured to bring them to your attention. Among those in service, despite their differences in rank, there are none who do not honor their lords, each according to his station. If, while personally knowing that my lord will fare badly in both this life and the next, I were to remain silent in fear of my fellow samurai or of the world at large, then would I not be guilty of complicity in your offense?
No one can deny that the Nakatsukasas of two generations, my father and myself, have dedicated our lives for the sake of our lord. When your father incurred the wrath of the authorities, his hundreds of retainers all shifted their allegiance; among them, my late father Yorikazu alone remained faithful to the end, accompanying him [into exile] to the province of Izu. Shortly before the battle that took place in Kamakura on the twelfth day of the second month in the eleventh year of the Bun'ei era (1274), I, Yorimoto, was in the province of Izu, but no sooner had I received word at the Hour of the Monkey on the tenth day than I hastened alone over the Hakone pass and joined with seven others who vowed before you to put an end to their lives. But the world at length grew calm again, and my lord now lives in peace. Since that time, you have included me among those who enjoy your trust in all matters, whether trifling or significant. How, then, could I estrange myself from you? I would obediently follow you even into the next life. If I should attain Buddhahood, I would save my lord as well, and if you were to attain Buddhahood, I expect you would do the same for me.
So I listened to the sermons of various priests and inquired into which teaching leads to Buddhahood. And I came to believe that, according to the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the sage Nichiren is the sovereign of the threefold world, the father and mother of all people, and the emissary of Shakyamuni Buddha - Bodhisattva Jogyo.
More than four hundred years have now passed since the evil teaching called the Shingon school was introduced to Japan. The Great Teacher Dengyo brought it from China in the twenty-fourth year of the Enryaku era (805), but he considered it undesirable for this country, and therefore did not allow it to be designated as a sect in its own right, defining it merely as an expedient teaching of the Tendai-Hokke sect. Later when the Great Teacher Dengyo had passed away, the Great Teacher Kobo, not to be outdone my him, took advantage of the opportunity to establish the Shingon teaching as an independent sect; but Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei would not accept it. However, Jikaku and Chisho were of limited insight, and although they lived on Mount Hiei, their hearts inclined toward Kobo of To-ji temple. Perhaps for this reason, they turned against their teacher Dengyo and for the first time established the Shingon sect at Enryaku-ji temple. This marked the beginning of our country's ruin.
For the more than three hundred years that followed, some insisted on the superiority of the Shingon teaching over the Lotus Sutra; others, on the superiority of the Lotus Sutra over the Shingon teaching; and still others, on the equality of both teachings. As the dispute continued unresolved, the imperial rule remained unaffected and did not come to an end. However, in the time of the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa, the seventy-seventh sovereign, the chief priest of the Tendai sect, Myoun, became exclusively committed to the Shingon teaching and was killed by Minamoto no Yoshinaka. This is an example of the passage that states, "May his head be split in seven pieces."
Then, in the time of the Retired Emperor Gotoba, the eighty-second sovereign, the Zen and Nembutsu sects appeared and spread throughout the land, as had the great evil teaching of Shingon. So the vows made by the Sun Goddess and the god Hachiman to protect one hundred sovereigns throughout one hundred reigns were broken, and the imperial authority came to an end. Through the workings of the Sun Goddess and the god Hachiman, affairs of state then came to be entrusted to the Gon no Tayu, Hojo Yoshitoki of the Kanto region.
These three evil teachings spread to Kanto, where they gained support within the ruling clan to a surprising degree. Therefore the two heavenly gods Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings were enraged and admonished the rulers by means of unprecedented disturbances in the heavens and calamities on earth. When their admonitions went unheeded, they commanded a neighboring country to punish those who slandered the Lotus Sutra. The Sun Goddess and the god Hachiman were powerless to help. The sage Nichiren alone was aware of all this.
Such being the strictness of the Lotus Sutra, I have set aside all trivial concerns and served you devotedly until this day in my desire to lead my lord to enlightenment. Are not those who accuse me falsely thereby disloyal to you? If I leave the clan and abandon you now, you will immediately fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Then, even if I myself were to attain Buddhahood, I could only grieve, feeling that I had done so in vain.
As for the Hinayana precepts, the two hundred and fifty precepts were expounded for the heavenly gods by the great arhat Purna; but Vimalakirti reprimanded him, saying, "You should not place impure food in a jeweled vessel." Angulimala reproached Monju, saying, "You will never realize the truth of Emptiness expounded in the Mahayana teachings through [Hinayana] practices, which are as insignificant as mosquitoes and gadflies." Monju later set forth seventeen flaws in the Hinayana precepts, and the Buddha likewise repudiated them with the eight analogies. The Great Teacher Dengyo denounced them as donkey's milk and likened them to a toad. The later disciples of Ganjin accused the Great Teacher Dengyo of calumny and appealed directly to Emperor Saga; but because what Dengyo had said is clearly indicated in the sutras, their efforts were to no avail. The petition submitted to the emperor by the sects of Nara proved futile, and the great ordination platform [for conferring the Mahayana precepts] was erected at Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei; so the Hinayana precepts have already long since been discarded. Even if I, Yorimoto, should compare Priest Ryokan to a mosquito, a gadfly or a toad, because such assertions are clearly based on the sutras, you would have no reason to find fault with me.
Now it is unimaginably grievous to me that you would order me to submit a written oath [discarding my faith in the Lotus Sutra]. If I, Yorimoto, were to follow the trend of the times, which goes against the Buddhist Law, and write such an oath, you would immediately incur the punishment of the Lotus Sutra. When the sage Nichiren, the envoy of Shakyamuni Buddha, was exiled because of the false charges leveled against him by the priest Ryokan, fighting broke out within one hundred days, just as he had predicted - and a great number of warriors perished. Among them were the scions of the Nagoe clan. Is not the priest Ryokan solely to blame for their deaths? And if you now pay heed to the views of the priests Ryuzo and Ryokan and force me to write this oath, will you not be equally guilty?
I am not sure whether those who slander me are simply ignorant of this causal principle or whether they are intentionally trying to do you harm. In any event, I urge you to summon those who are plotting to use me in order to provoke some major incident, and have them confront me in your presence.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-fifth day of the sixth month in the third year of Kenji (1277), cyclical sign hinoto-ushi
Submitted by Shijo Nakatsukasa-no-jo Yorimoto
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 5, page 207.
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