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Reply to Myoho Bikuni Gozen

I have received your gift of a light summer robe.

You are a woman, and your husband has passed away, leaving you behind. You are separated from your relatives, and your one or two daughters are undependable and provide you with little support. Moreover, you are a woman who has been hated by others on account of this teaching. Thus you are like Bodhisattva Fukyo.

The Buddha's aunt, the nun Mahaprajapati, was also a woman. Nevertheless, she attained the state of arhat and gained a name as a shomon disciple. Thus she entered the path by which Buddhahood can never be attained. She transformed her woman's appearance [and became a nun], abandoning her status as royal consort, and honored the exhortations of the Buddha. For more than forty years, she upheld the five hundred precepts. By day she waited by the roadside [begging for alms], and by night she sat beneath a tree [in meditation], aspiring to salvation in her life to come. Yet she was denied the road that leads to Buddhahood, and her name was bruited about as someone who would never become a Buddha - a mortifying thing indeed. Being a woman, she had, whether with or without cause, been the subject of unsavory rumors throughout long kalpas past, which surely caused her shame and vexation. Loathing her [female] body, she clad herself in rags and became a nun, thinking that in this way she had divorced herself from such sorrows. But on the contrary, she learned that, having become a person of the two vehicles, she was never to attain Buddhahood. How wretched she must have felt! By means of the Lotus Sutra, however, she was absolved from the displeasure of the Buddhas of the three existences and was able to become a Buddha called Beheld with Joy by All Sentient Beings. How happy, how joyful she must have been! Thus, no matter what might happen, were it for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, she would surely never turn away.

Then the Buddha in a loud voice addressed the four categories of Buddhists at large, saying, "Who can broadly preach the Lotus Sutra in this saha world?" When everyone responded with the thought, "I will, I will!" the Buddha fully three times admonished that nuns and laywomen desirous of repaying their debt to all the Buddhas should persevere through any difficulty to spread the Lotus Sutra in this saha world after his passing. But they did not pay attention, and vowed instead "to declare this sutra widely in the lands of the other directions." Thus these nuns did not clearly understand the Buddha's intent. How exasperated he must have been! Thereupon the Buddha turned aside and instead looked earnestly to the eighty myriad of millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas.

I had therefore thought that, although women might tarnish their names and throw away their lives for the sake of insignificant matters, they were weak in pursuing the path of Buddhahood. But now you, born a woman in the evil world of the latter age, have been reviled, struck and persecuted by the barbaric inhabitants of these islands [of Japan], who are so ignorant of reason, and have endured it all to propagate the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha on Eagle Peak surely perceives that you far surpass that nun [Mahaprajapati]. The name of that nun [when she attained Buddhahood], the Buddha Beheld with Joy by All Sentient Beings, refers to none other; it belongs to you, Myoho-ama Gozen of the present time.

A person who becomes a king is reputed to be one who in both past and present has observed the ten good precepts. Though the names of individual rulers change, the lion throne they sit upon is only one. Likewise, this name [Beheld with Joy by All Sentient Beings] is the same for you both.

Even a nun who went against the Buddha's words received the name Buddha Beheld with Joy by All Sentient Beings. You have not deviated from the Buddha's words; you are a nun who, right here in the saha world, has lost her good name and been willing to discard her life [for the sake of the Lotus Sutra]. The Buddha did not abandon the nun, his foster mother. Were he to abandon you because you are no relation to him, he would be a biased Buddha indeed. But how could that ever be? Moreover, the sutra states, "The living beings in it [the threefold world] are all my children." If we go by this sutra passage, then you are the Buddha's daughter, while that other nun was merely his foster mother. If the Buddha did not abandon his foster mother, then how could he intend to abandon his own daughter? Please understand this thoroughly. Before this letter becomes too involved, I will stop here.


Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6, page 311.

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