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Letter to the Priests of Seicho-ji

Let us congratulate each other on the coming of the New Year. Since you paid me no visit last year, I am worried whether something unfortunate may have occurred. If you have a chance to call on me, would you borrow for me the Jujushin ron,1 Hizo hoyaku,2 Nikyo ron3 and other commentaries of the Shingon sect from the priest Ise-ko! I need them in order to refute the Shingon priests who have for some time been clamoring against me. Bring with you also volumes one and two of the Maka shikan. I would also appreciate the Toshun4 and the Fusho ki5 if they are available. Borrow the Shuyo shu6 which is owned by Kanchi-bo, the disciple of Enchi-bo. Moreover, I have heard people say that he is in possession of other relevant writings. Please borrow them as well, and tell him that I will return them as soon as possible. This year the question of which Buddhist teachings are right and which are wrong will definitely be resolved.

Tell Joken-bo, Gijo-bo7 and other priests on my behalf: "Nichiren has often been on the verge of being killed. Twice he was exiled and once almost beheaded. This is not because of any worldly wrongs on his part. [As a youth,] he received great wisdom from the living Bodhisattva Kokuzo. He had been praying to the bodhisattva to become the wisest person in Japan. The bodhisattva must have taken pity on him, for he presented him with a great jewel as brilliant as the morning star, which Nichiren tucked away in his right sleeve. Thereafter, on perusing the entire body of sutras, he was able to discern in essence the relative worth of the eight sects8 as well as of all the scriptures."

The Shingon sect is especially blameworthy, because it attempts to destroy the Lotus Sutra. It is essential to refute Shingon, so in preparation I first attacked the errors of the Zen and Nembutsu sects. I have good reason for my accusation. I will reserve discussion of the rights or wrongs of Buddhist schools in India and China for some other time, but for Japan, all the people have discarded the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra and are therefore without exception destined to fall into the evil paths. This is because, at each and every temple, the Shingon sect invariably exists side by side with the Hokke [Lotus] sect9 just as a shadow follows the body. Thus, to the correct practice of the Lotus Sutra is added the Shingon practice of the eighteen paths,10 and to its performance of penitence is joined that based on the Amida Sutra. And in conferring titles upon priests of the Tendai sect, the Shingon procedure predominates, while that of the Lotus Sutra is relegated to a secondary position.

In reality, the sutras of Shingon belong to the provisional teachings previous to the Lotus Sutra and are inferior even to the Kegon or the Hannya sutras. Yet Jikaku and Kobo were confused on this point and held that the Shingon sutras were equal or even superior to the Lotus Sutra. The ceremony for "opening the eyes"11 of a newly-made image of the Buddha is therefore conducted with the mudra of the Buddha-eye Goddess and the mantra of Dainichi Buddha.12 As a result, all the wooden and painted images of the Buddha in Japan have been rendered soulless and sightless and, in consequence, have been possessed by the heavenly devil, bringing ruin upon their own worshipers. This is why the imperial court [in Kyoto] is about to perish. Now the evil teaching of Shingon has made its appearance in Kamakura and threatens to destroy all of Japan.

The Zen and Pure Land sects also hold extremely perverted views. I knew that if I declared this, it would certainly cost me my life. Yet I was determined to requite the favor of Bodhisattva Kokuzo. With this in mind, on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in the fifth year of Kencho (1253), I pointed out the errors of the various sects for the first time to a small audience including Joen-bo13 on the southern side of the image hall in Dozen-bo’s14 quarters in Seicho-ji temple, located in Tojo Village in Awa Province. For more than twenty years since then, I have persisted in my declaration without retreating a step. For this reason, I was at times driven from my dwelling and at other times exiled. In former days Bodhisattva Fukyo was beaten with staves; now Nichiren must face the sword.

All the people in Japan, both wise and foolish, from the sovereign down to the common people, say that the priest Nichiren is no match for the scholars, teachers, great masters and eminent priests of old. I waited for the right time to dispel their distrust of me. The time finally came when great earthquakes occurred in the Shoka era, followed by the appearance of a huge comet in the Bun’ei era. Observing these, I made this prediction: ‘Our country will suffer two terrible disasters, internal strife and foreign invasion. The former will take place in Kamakura, in the form of internecine strife15 among the descendants of the Gon no Tayu. The latter may come from any direction, but that from the west16 would be the most violent. This latter will occur solely because of the fact that all the Buddhist sects in Japan are erroneous, and Bonten and Taishaku will therefore command other countries to attack us. So long as the country refuses to heed me, it will certainly be defeated, no matter whether it has a hundred, a thousand or even ten thousand generals as brave as Masakado,17 Sumitomo,18 Sadato,19 Toshihito,20 or Tamura.21 If these words of mine prove false, then the people are free to believe in the distorted views of the Shingon, Nembutsu and other sects." This is the prediction that I made known far and wide.

I especially warn the priests on Mount Kiyosumi. If they treat me with less respect than they show their own parents or the three treasures, they will become wretched beggars in this life and will fall into the hell of incessant suffering in the next. I will explain why. The villainous Tojo Saemon Kagenobu22 once hunted the deer and other animals kept by Seicho-ji and tried to force the priests in the various lodging temples to become Nembutsu believers. At that time I pitted myself against Tojo and supported the lord of the manor. I composed a fervent oath which read, ‘If the two temples, Kiyosumi and Futama, should come into Tojo’s possession, I will discard the Lotus Sutra!’ Then I tied it to the hand of the object of worship,23 to which I prayed continuously. Within a year, both temples were freed from Tojo’s grasp. Certainly Bodhisattva Kokuzo will never forget this, so how can those priests who make light of me avoid being forsaken by the heavenly gods? Hearing me say this, the more foolish of you may think that I am invoking a curse upon you. That is not so, however. I am warning you simply because it would be a pity if you should fall into the hell of incessant suffering after your death.

Let me say a few words about Ama Gozen, the wife of the lord of the manor.24 Being a woman, and a foolish one at that, she must have been turned against my teaching by threats from others. I pity her, for, having forgotten her debt of gratitude, she will fall into the evil paths in her next existence. Despite that, however, she extended great favor to my parents, so I am praying that I may somehow be able to save her from that fate.

The Lotus Sutra is nothing other than a scripture that reveals that Shakyamuni became a Buddha in the distant past of gohyaku-jintengo. It also predicts that Shariputra and the other disciples will become Buddhas in the future. Those who do not believe the sutra will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Not only did Shakyamuni himself declare all this, but Taho Buddha also testified to its truth and the Buddhas from the ten directions extended their tongues by way of verification. Furthermore, the Lotus Sutra states that the votary of this sutra will receive the protection of the bodhisattvas as numerous as the dust particles of a thousand worlds who emerged from the earth, the bodhisattvas Monju and Kannon, Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and the ten demon daughters. Therefore, there is no other way to attain Buddhahood than by practicing the Lotus Sutra, for it is the only scripture which reveals things past and future.

I have never seen Tsukushi,25 nor do I know anything about the barbarians [of the west]. Yet, the prediction I made concerning the Mongols in light of the entire body of the sutras has already come true. Hence, when I say that you will all fall into the hell of incessant suffering because of your ingratitude, how can my words prove false! You may be safe for the time being, but wait and see what happens later. All of Japan will be reduced to the same miserable state in which the islands of Iki and Tsushima now find themselves. When vast numbers of Mongol hordes close in on the province of Awa, those of you priests who cling to prejudiced views will cringe in terror and finally fall into the hell of incessant suffering, saying, ‘Now I know that the priest Nichiren was right.’ What a pity! What a pity indeed!


The eleventh day of the first month

To the priests of Seicho-ji in the province of Awa

This letter is to be read aloud by the priests Sado26 and Suke Ajari before the statue of Bodhisattva Kokuzo for all the priests of Seicho-ji to hear.


  1. Jujushin Ron: "Treatise on the Ten Stages of Mind." written around 830 by Kobo, founder of the Japanese Shingon sect. In this work, he defined ten stages of the mind's development. He placed a follower of the Lotus Sutra in the eighth stage, and a follower of the Kegon Sutra in the upper ninth. Ultimately be placed a follower of the Shingon teaching in the upper tenth stage, because such a person has obtained the secret teaching. This treatise consists of ten volumes and asserts the supremacy of the Dainichi Sutra, the basic sutra of the Shingon sect.
  2. Hizo Hoyaku: A three-volume summary of the Jujushin Ron.
  3. Nikyo Ron: "A comparison of Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism," Kobo's writing. The full title is Ben Kemmitsu Nikyo Ron, also called the Kemmitsu Nikyo Ron. In this work, Kobo compares esoteric teachings with exoteric teachings and asserts the supremacy of the former over the latter. This work also explains each of the ten stages of mind.
  4. Toshun: A commentary on T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Mongu (Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra) written by Chih-tu of the T'ang dynasty.
  5. Fusho Ki: Miao-lo's commentary on the Hokke Mongu.
  6. Shuyo Shu: Generally, a collection of the fundamental teachings of a Buddhist sect. Here it means a collection of the Tendai doctrines.
  7. Joken-bo and Gijo-bo: Nichiren Daishonin's senior priests at Seicho-ji temple. On April 28, 1253, at Seicho-ji temple, the Daishonin denounced the established sects and declared the founding of his Buddhism, thus incurring the wrath of Tojo Kagenobu, the local lord of that district. Joken-bo and Gijo-bo protected the Daishonin, helping him escape arrest by Tojo's warriors and leave the temple safely.
  8. Eight sects: See p. 25, footnote 66.
  9. Hokke sect: Here, the Tendai sect. See also p. 231, footnote 14.
  10. Shingon practice of the eighteen paths: Reference to Shingon mandala worship. The Womb World mandala and the Diamond World mandala each include nine central objects of worship. The Shingon followers join their fingers in eighteen ways and meditate on these eighteen objects of worship.
  11. Ceremony for opening the eyes: Ceremony for imbuing a newly-made Buddha image with a spiritual property, thus making it an object of worship.
  12. Mudra and mantra: See p. 83, footnote 46.
  13. Joen-bo: A priest at Renge-ji temple at Hanabusa in Tojo Village. Renge-ji temple is thought to have been a branch temple of Seicho-ji.
  14. Dozen-bo (d. 1276): Chief priest of Seicho-ji temple, under whom the Daishonin first studied Buddhism. The Daishonin never forgot his first teacher, and after the latter's death wrote "On Requital for the Buddha's Favor" as an expression of his gratitude.
  15. Internecine strife: In February 1272, Hojo Tokisuke, an elder half brother of the regent Hojo Tokimune, attempted a rebellion but failed.
  16. That from the west: Both in 1274 and in 1281, Mongol forces attacked the southwestern part of Japan.
  17. Masakado (d. 940): A distinguished warrior of the Taira clan who wielded power in eastern Japan.
  18. Sumitomo (d. 941): Fujiwara no Sumitomo. A military commander of the Fujiwara clan who subdued a band of pirates in 936.
  19. Sadato (1019-1062): Abe no Sadato, head of a powerful family in eastern Japan.
  20. Toshihito: Fujiwara no Toshihito. A distinguished warrior of the Fujiwara family in the Heian period (796-1185). Little is known about him.
  21. Tamura (758-811): Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, a military leader who obtained the Imperial commission of Sei-i Tai Shogun (Generalissimo for Subjugation of the Barbarians) and established       the authority of the Imperial court in the northeastern area of Japan around the early ninth century.
  22. Tojo Saemon Kagenobu: The local lord of Tojo District in Awa Province, who was an ardent believer in Nembutsu.
  23. The object of worship: A statue of Shakyamuni Buddha.
  24. The nun in the family of the lord of the manor: "The lord of the manor" refers to Hojo Tomotoki, younger brother of Hojo Yasutoki, the third regent of the Kamakura government. The nun, his wife, was called Nagoe no Ama or Oama. After the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, she chose to forsake her faith in the Daishonin's Buddhism.
  25. Tsukushi: The ancient name for Kyushu, the southern part of Japan, where Mongol forces attacked after sweeping across the islands of Iki and Tsushima.
  26. Sado (1253-1314): Another name for Niko. He was one of the six closest disciples of Nichiren Daishonin known as the six senior priests. Details concerning Suke Ajari are unknown.

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 2, pp. 263-269.

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