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Propagation by the Wise

Buddhism can be correctly propagated only by a person of unsurpassed wisdom. This is why Shakyamuni, after expounding all the sutras, entrusted the Hinayana teachings to Ananda and the Mahayana teachings to Monju, but refused to transfer the ultimate principle of the Lotus Sutra to any of his immediate disciples. Shakyamuni instead summoned Bodhisattva Jogyo, his disciple from ages past, and entrusted it to him.

Even if there should be a person of wisdom who embraces Buddhism, how could he propagate it without believers who support him? Shakyamuni had the support of Bonten and Taishaku who dwell in heaven. From among the six paths, the Buddha chose the worlds of Heaven and Humanity, and of these two, he chose to be born among human beings. Of all places in the universe inhabited by men, he appeared in India, in the kingdom of Magadha. The king of Magadha should have been a protector of the Buddha, but the ruler was King Ajatashatru, an evil man. The most unfortunate destiny for a Buddha is to be born in the reign of an evil monarch. King Ajatashatru had murdered his father, a wise king who had supported the Buddha. Even worse, he had taken Devadatta as his mentor. Devadatta committed three of the five cardinal sins, worst of all injuring the Buddha and causing him to bleed. The impious and evil king joined forces with this slanderer of Buddhism, compounding the great harm to humanity. Not only for one or two years but for several decades, this king repeatedly harassed the Buddha and killed a great many of his disciples. This infuriated the heavens, and the skies reacted violently. Moreover, the terrestrial gods were so provoked that the great disasters occurred on earth. Month after month violent gales raged, and year after year famines and epidemics struck, killing the majority of the people. Furthermore, neighboring kingdoms attacked on all sides, driving Magadha to the brink of ruin. At that time, motivated by a revelation in a dream, by the advice of his physician and minister Jivaka and finally by his own inner doubts, Ajatashatru left Devadatta and went to Shakyamuni Buddha to repent for his sinful deeds. Therefore his illness was cured immediately, the invasions ceased and the entire country became peaceful. Not only did he recover his health; he was able to thwart the prophecy that he would die on the seventh day of the third month and in fact prolonged his life by forty years. In gratitude, he assembled a thousand arhats to record all the Buddha's teachings, especially the Lotus Sutra, for future generations. It is therefore thanks to King Ajatashatru that we have the Lotus Sutra we embrace today.

Even so, if I, Nichiren, should repeat the teachings given by the Buddha to King Ajatashatru, most Japanese would consider them to be merely my own fabrication. But since you are my disciple and supporter, I will reveal them to you. The Buddha stated, "After my death, during the Latter Day of the Law, there will be many who will piously observe the five ascetic practices as Devadatta did. They will persuade an evil ruler to act against the one person of unsurpassed wisdom. At times they will slander or strike him, cause him to be exiled, and even try to kill him. In that age there will be natural disasters, such as typhoons, famines, and epidemics even greater than those witnessed in this day, and these calamities will continue year after year. There will also be foreign invasions." This is the substance of the tenth volume of the Shugo Sutra.

The present age has evolved exactly as the Buddha predicted it would, and Nichiren is the wise man whom the Buddha described. Although there are people who wish to help me, many of them are weak-willed and others, though having a strong spirit, cannot act upon their intentions. Thus you are one of the very few whose action matches his will. Your faith is stronger than the faith of others, and it is because of your support that I have been able to survive. Both the heavens and the earth are certainly aware of this, so if any misfortune happens to you, it could only mean that heaven wants my life itself. Wherever he may be, whether in the mountains, on the seas, in the skies or in the cities, man cannot escape death. However, a passage from one of the sutras explains that even one's immutable karma can be changed. T'ien-t'ai interprets this passage to mean that one can prolong his fixed span of life.

As I advised you earlier, until the Mongol forces actually attack this country, you should refrain from spreading any alarm. As for the reply to your lord, answer him firmly in this way: "Since I am ill, it is most distressing for me to be transferred to a remote place. Moreover, the entire country is on the verge of ruin. Should an emergency arise, how could I possibly be a coward? At this moment I am resolved to sacrifice my life for my lord. Yet, should a sudden crisis occur, it is doubtful whether I could reach you in time from the distant province of Echigo. Therefore, even at the risk of losing my estate, I will not leave you this year. Anything else you may command of me, I will obey without hesitation or fear. The only people more important to me are the priest Nichiren and my deceased parents. However, I will devote this life to you, even if you disown me, for I have entrusted my life after death to the priest Nichiren."


The sixth day of the ninth month in the second year of Kenji (1276)

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, page 169.

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