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Persecution at Tatsunokuchi

Shijo Kingo-dono Go-shousoku (Letter to Shijo Kingo)

I cannot adequately express my gratitude for your frequent letters. At the time of my persecution on the twelfth of last month,1 you not only accompanied me to Tatsunokuchi2 but declared that you would die by my side. I was deeply moved!

How many are the places where I died in past existences for the sake of my family, lands and kin! I have given up my life on mountains, seas and rivers, on the seashore and by the roadside, but never once did I die for the Lotus Sutra or suffer persecution for the daimoku. Hence none of the ends I met enabled me to reach enlightenment. Because I did not attain Buddhahood, the seas and rivers where I died are not the Buddha's land.

In this life, however, as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, I was exiled and almost put to death-exiled to Ito and nearly beheaded at Tatsunokuchi. Tatsunokuchi in Sagami Province is the place where Nichiren gave his life. Because he died there for the Lotus Sutra, how could it be anything less than the Buddha

land? A passage from the sutra reads, "In all the Buddha lands of the universe there is but one supreme vehicle,..."3 Doesn't this bear out my assertion? The "one supreme vehicle" is the Lotus Sutra. There is no true teaching other than the Lotus Sutra in any of the Buddha lands throughout the universe. The Buddha's provisional teachings are excluded, as the sutra explains elsewhere.4 This being so, then every place where Nichiren meets persecution is the Buddha land.

Of all the places in this world, it is at Tatsunokuchi in Katase of Sagami Province where Nichiren's life dwells.5 Because he gave his life there for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, Tatsunokuchi may well be called the Buddha land. This principle is found in the Jinriki chapter, where it states, "Whether in a grove, in a garden, on a mountain, in a valley or in a broad field,...the Buddhas enter nirvana."

You accompanied Nichiren, vowing to give your life as a votary of the Lotus Sutra. Your deed is infinitely greater than that of Hung Yen,6 who tore open his stomach and inserted the liver of his dead lord, Duke Yi, to save him from shame and dishonor. When I reach Eagle Peak, I will first tell how Shijo Kingo, like Nichiren, resolved to die for the Lotus Sutra.

Secretly I learned that I am to be exiled to Sado by order of Regent Hojo. Of the three heavenly gods, the god of the moon saved my life at Tatsunokuchi by appearing as a shining object, and the god of the stars descended four or five days ago to greet me.7 Now only the god of the sun remains, and he is certain to protect me. How reassuring! The Hosshi chapter states, "[The Buddha] will send gods in various guises to protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra." This passage leaves no room for doubt. The Anrakugyo chapter reads, "Neither swords nor staves will harm him." The Fumon chapter states, "The sword will instantly be broken into pieces." There is nothing false in these quotations. Strong and steadfast faith is the vital thing.

With my deep respect,

The twenty-first day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271)

  1. September 12, 1271
  2. Tatsunokuchi: A place near Kamakura used as an execution site
  3. Lotus Sutra, chap. 2
  4. Ibid
  5. The translation here is simplified to avoid redundant geographic references
  6. Hung Yen: A loyal retainer in ancient China whose lord, Yi Kung, was slain in battle. Hung Yen sacrificed his own life to prevent the desecration of his lord's body. To the Chinese, the liver was the source of vitality
  7. On the night of September 13, while the Daishonin was confined at Honma Rokurozaemon's residence in Echi, a luminous object fell from the sky and hung suspended before him in the branches of a plum tree. In scientific terms, this seems to have been a phenomenon caused by atmospheric discharge. See also p. 183

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; Vol. I, pp. 13-15.

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