Reply to Takahashi Nyudo
Our compassionate father Shakyamuni Buddha, the Greatly Enlightened World-Honored One, made his appearance in central India at the time when the human life span measured a hundred years, and for the sake of all living beings set forth the sacred teachings of his lifetime. The persons living at the same time as Shakyamuni Buddha had already formed profound karmic ties with him in the past, and hence they were able to attain the Way. But Shakyamuni was much concerned about how to save those who would live after his passing, and so he put his eighty thousand sacred teachings into written form. Among the sacred teachings of his lifetime, he entrusted the Hinayana sutras to the Venerable Mahakashyapa, and the Mahayana sutras, as well as the Lotus and Nirvana sutras, to Bodhisattva Monjushiri.
But the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the eighty thousand sacred teachings and the very eye of the Lotus Sutra, he did not entrust to Mahakashyapa or Ananda, nor would he transfer them to the great bodhisattvas such as Monju, Fugen, Kannon, Miroku, Jizo or Nagarjuna. These great bodhisattvas hoped that he would do so, and requested it of him, but the Buddha would not consent. Instead he summoned the venerable figure Bodhisattva Jogyo forth from the depths of the earth, and in the presence of the Buddha Taho and the other Buddhas of the ten directions, the Tathagata Shakyamuni, seated in the tower adorned with seven kinds of precious gems, entrusted the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo to Bodhisattva Jogyo.
The reason for this was as follows. All the beings who live after the Buddha's passing are children of the Buddha, and he thinks of them all equally with compassion. But, just as it is customary for a physician to prescribe medicine according to the particular ailment he is treating, so for the first five hundred years after his passing, the Buddha commanded that Mahakashyapa, Ananda and other disciples should give to all living beings the medicine of the Hinayana sutras. For the following five-hundred-year period, he decreed that Bodhisattva Monjushiri, Bodhisattva Miroku, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna and Bodhisattva Vasubandhu should bestow upon all living beings the medicine of the Kegon, Dainichi, Hannya and other Mahayana sutras. And for the time of the Middle Day of the Law, a thousand years after his passing, he decreed that Bodhisattva Yakuo, Bodhisattva Kanzeon and others should bestow upon all living beings the medicine of the remaining teachings, with the exception of Myoho-renge-kyo, the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
With the coming the Latter Day of the Law, however, with regard to these Hinayana sutras, Mahayana sutras and the Lotus Sutra - which were entrusted respectively to Mahakashyapa, Ananda and others, to the bodhisattva Monju, Miroku and others, and to Yakuo, Kannon and others - though the words of these sutras still remain, they will no longer serve as medicine for the illnesses of living beings. The illnesses will be too grave, and these medicines too ineffectual. At that time, Bodhisattva Jogyo will make his appearance in the world and bestow upon all living beings of Jambudvipa the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.
At that time, the people will all look upon this bodhisattva as an enemy. They will be like so many monkeys faced with a dog, or like demons eyeing human beings with spite. [They will treat him] like Bodhisattva Fukyo in times past, who was not only cursed and hated by all people but was attacked with sticks and staves, rocks and tiles, or like the monk Kakutoku, who was nearly put to death.
At that time, Mahakashyapa and Ananda will hide themselves on Eagle Peak or disappear into the Ganges River. Miroku and Monju will withdraw to the inner court of the Tushita Heaven or retire to the Fragrant Mountain, and Bodhisattva Kanzeon will return to the western region and Bodhisattva Fugen to the eastern region. Though there will be those who practice the various sutras, no one will guard and protect such people, and therefore they will be unable to bring benefit to the people. Though there will be persons who chant the names of the various Buddhas, the heavenly gods will not lend them protection. They will be as helpless as calves separated from their mothers or pheasants sighted by hawks.
And at that time the great demons from the worlds of the ten directions will come crowding into the continent of Jambudvipa and will take possession of the four categories of Buddhists, causing them to inflict injury on their parents or to do away with their own brothers and sisters. In particular, these demons will enter into the hearts of those monks and nuns throughout the nation who appear to be wise or who seem to be diligent in observing the precepts, and through them will practice deception upon the ruler of the nation and his ministers.
At that time, if there should be someone who, receiving the protection of Bodhisattva Jogyo, bestows only the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, the five characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, upon all persons, then those four categories of Buddhists as well as the other prominent monks will hate him as though he were their parents' enemy or a foe from some previous existence, or will regard him with loathing as though he were a sworn enemy of the imperial house or someone bent on revenge.
At that time, great changes will take place in the heavens. There will be eclipses of the sun and moon, great comets will streak across the sky, and the earth will quiver and shake as though it were a waterwheel. Following this will come the disaster of rebellion within one's own domain, in which the ruler of the nation, his brothers, and the other great men of the nation will be attacked and killed. And then will come the disaster of invasion from abroad, when the land will be attacked by a neighboring nation, and the people will be taken prisoner or commit suicide, and everyone within the country, whether high or low, will encounter great tribulation.
All of this will come about solely because the person who is propagating the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra under the protection of Bodhisattva Jogyo is abused, struck, exiled and threatened with execution. For we read in the sutra that Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings inscribed an oath in the presence of the Buddha at the assembly where the Lotus Sutra was being preached, vowing that if anyone should show enmity toward the votary of the Lotus Sutra, they would chastise that person with greater vehemence than if he were the sworn enemy of their own father and mother.
Now I, Nichiren, have been born in the country of Japan. When I hold up the bright mirror of the Lotus Sutra and the other sutras to the faces of the persons living in this country, I see that matters do not differ in the slightest from what the sutras predict. Just as the Buddha foretold, great changes are taking place in the heavens and prodigies are appearing on earth.
For some time now I have known that this nation is destined for destruction. I knew that, if I reported this to the ruler, and if it were still possible that the nation might be preserved in peace and safety, then he would surely ask me to clarify [the meaning of my words]; but if the nation were indeed doomed, then the ruler would not heed my advice. And if he did not heed my advice, then I knew that I would most likely be condemned to exile or execution. Yet the Buddha has warned us: "If, while understanding this matter, you still hesitate to risk your life and therefore do not declare it to the people, then you are not only my enemy but the deadly enemy of all living beings and are bound to fall into the great citadel of the Avichi Hell."
At this point I became troubled as to how to proceed. If I spoke out with regard to this matter, there was no telling what might become of me. My own safety was of little concern, but suppose that my parents, brothers and perhaps even one other person out of a thousand or ten thousand should follow me. They, too, would surely be hated by both the ruler and the common people. And if they were so hated, then, not having a full understanding of the Buddhist teachings, they would find it difficult to endure the attacks of others. Though they had supposed that, by practicing the Buddha's Law, they would gain peace and security, in fact they would find that, because they had embraced this teaching, they were beset by great hardships. In that case they would then slander this Law as a distorted teaching and therefore fall into the evil paths. How pitiful that would be!
But if, on the other hand, I failed to speak out on this matter, then not only would I be going against the vow I made to the Buddha, but I would become the deadly enemy of all living beings and be condemned without fail to the Avichi Hell. Thus, though I had debated which course of action to take, I made up my mind to speak out.
I felt that once I had begun to speak out, it would not do to falter or desist along the way, and so I spoke out with ever-increasing vigor. Then, just as the Buddha's words in the sutra had predicted, the ruler grew hostile and the common people began to attack me. And because they treated me with enmity, heaven grew enraged, the sun and moon displayed great changes in their behavior, and huge comets appeared. The earth shook as though it would turn over, internecine strife broke out within the nation, and a foreign country attacked from without. All happened just as the Buddha had predicted, and there was no longer any doubt the I, Nichiren, am the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
Last year when I left Kamakura and took refuge here, I had intended to stop and speak with you and the others, since it was on my way, but in the end I failed to do so. In addition, I have failed to reply to your earlier communication, though I certainly had no particular intention of neglect. How could I ever feel distantly toward any of you? Even in the case of the Nembutsu priests, the Zen people and the Shingon teachers, as well as the ruler of the nation and other men of authority, all of whom bear me such hatred - I admonish them because I want to help them, and their hatred for me makes me pity them more than ever. How could I, then, think lightly of those who, even for a day, have acted as allies and extended me their sympathy?
Actually I am relieved when persons who have wives and children to worry about keep their distance from me out of fear of the world's reaction. I have no power to save those who ally themselves with me, and in addition they may risk having what small estates they possess taken away from them. It pains me to think how this must distress their wives and children and their followers, who have no real understanding of the situation.
In the second month of last year I was granted pardon, and on the thirteenth day of the third month I left the province of Sado, arriving in Kamakura on the twenty-sixth day of the same month. On the eighth day of the fourth month, when I met with Hei no Saemon, he questioned me about various matters, and in the course of the discussion asked when the Mongols would launch their invasion.
"They will come this year," I replied. "And in regard to this matter, except for me, there is no one who can save this country of Japan! If you want to save the nation, then you should cut off the heads of all the Nembutsu, Zen and Ritsu priests in Japan and expose them to view on Yuinohama beach. But I suppose it is too late for that now.
"Everyone thinks that I am simply intent upon speaking ill of the Nembutsu teachers and the Zen and Ritsu priests. But these people are of little consequence. It is the Shingon sect with its evil doctrines that is putting a terrible curse upon this fair country of Japan! The Great Teachers Kobo and Jikaku were misled by these teachings and have brought this country to the brink of ruin. Though a country may be destined to be destroyed in two or three years anyway, if one has the Shingon priests offer up prayers for its safety, then it will be attacked before a year or even half a year is out!" These are the things I told him.
Being so fiercely hated merely for trying to give advice that would save others, I suppose that, when I was pardoned from exile, I should have left Sado and hidden myself somewhere far off in the midst of the mountains or by the distant seashore. But instead I went to Kamakura, because I hoped to explain the situation one last time to Hei no Saimon and thereby save those people who might manage to survive an attack on Japan. After offering my admonition, I knew I should not remain any longer in Kamakura and so I set off, letting my feet carry me where they wished. And since you were on the way, I thought how much I would like to see all of you once more, even though it might be an imposition. But though the thought came to me a thousand times, I found my heart torn by conflicting considerations, and in the end I passed you by.
The reason is this. The province of Suruga is the domain of the lord of Sagami, and the Fuji area in particular is full of those related to the widows of high-ranking officials. These people bear me great rancor because they look upon me as an enemy of the late lay priests of Saimyo-ji and Gokuraku-ji. I was afraid that, if they heard I had visited you, it would bring grief to you all. Even up until now, I have feared causing trouble for you and so did not reply to your earlier communication. I have repeatedly warned the priests not under any circumstances to go anywhere near the area of Kajima in Fuji, and yet even so, I am apprehensive about what may happen.
As to this matter of the Shingon sect, I suppose you may have doubts. No matter how I explain it in terms of doctrine, you may find it hard to follow me. However, you should understand from the facts before your very eyes!
The Retired Emperor of Oki was the eighty-second sovereign. He reigned more than two thousand years after the time of Emperor Jimmu; he was the Sun Goddess manifested in human form. Who would venture to oppose such a ruler?
Moreover, from the time of Emperor Kimmei to that of the Retired Emperor of Oki, the various great doctrines and secret doctrines of Buddhism, introduced from China, Paekche, Silla and Koguryo, were revered and preserved at Mount Hiei, To-ji, Onjo-ji, the seven major temples of Nara, and elsewhere throughout Japan. All this was done to protect the nation and to guard the safety of its ruler.
The Retired Emperor of Oki, vexed that power had been seized by Kamakura, enlisted the aid of the high-ranking priests of Mount Hiei, To-ji and other temples, and set them to performing rituals for the demise of Yoshitoki. This continued not for just a year or two, but for years on end, the priests praying and casting their spells. Yet the Gon no Tayu never so much as dreamed of what was happening, and did not for his part have a single prayer ritual conducted. Perhaps he thought that, even if such a ritual were to be performed, it would prove ineffective. In any event, the Son of Heaven was defeated in battle and exiled to the island province of Oki.
One who becomes the sovereign of Japan embodies the living spirit of the Sun Goddess; he becomes ruler by virtue of the power of the ten good precepts he has observed in previous existences. How then could anyone among the common people of the country possibly overthrow him? To illustrate, even if a father should be at fault, it would be like a son who is blameless hating a father who is culpable. Even though the father might be guilty of some grave error, would Heaven ever permit the son to punish him?
Then, what grave error caused the Retired Emperor of Oki to meet with this shame? It came about solely because he allied himself with the Shingon priests of Japan, who are the deadly enemies of the Lotus Sutra!
All the Shingon priests go through a secret ritual called kanjo, in which pictures of Shakyamuni Buddha and others are painted on an eight-petaled lotus and the participant treads on them with his feet. And because those who took part in this bizarre ritual were treated with reverence by the Retired Emperor of Oki as the supervisors of various temples, power passed into the hands of his common subjects and he met with disgrace in this life.
Now this great evil doctrine of Shingon has spread to the region of Kamakura, deceiving the members of the ruling clan and threatening to bring about the destruction of Japan. This is a matter of the gravest import, and I have not discussed it even with my disciples. Instead I have dissembled, pretending ignorance and filling their ears only with attacks upon Nembutsu and Zen. But since my own admonitions continue to go unheeded, without begrudging my life, I will in addition tell my disciples what the true situation is.
When I do so, they will be even more perplexed than ever. [They will say that] no matter how admirable or worthy of respect Nichiren may be, he can scarcely surpass Jikaku and Kobo. I fear I will never succeed in banishing all their doubts. How can I dispel them?
When all others may hate me, the fact that you have placed even a bit of trust in me and, moreover, have come all the way here to visit me, cannot be ascribed to the karma of your present life alone. Surely we must share some bond from a previous existence!
I am much distressed to hear that your illness has become so serious. However, swords exit to cut down enemies, and medicine exists to cure sickness. King Ajatashatru murdered his father and made himself an enemy of the Buddha. But after foul sores broke out on his body, he converted to the Buddha's teachings and embraced the Lotus Sutra, whereupon his sores healed and he prolonged his life by forty years.
Moreover, the Lotus Sutra states that it is "beneficial medicine for the illnesses of all the people of Jambudvipa." The people of this world of ours, the continent of Jambudvipa, are suffering from illness, but the Lotus Sutra will be their medicine. Now in your case, the three requirements are already present, so how could you fail to recover? But if you cherish doubts, then it is beyond my power to help you. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Please have Kakujo-bo and Hoki-bo read this to you from time to time and listen well, listen well!
The twelfth day of the seventh month
Reply sent to His Lordship Takahashi Rokuro Hyoe Nyudo
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6, page 123.
Designed by Will Kallander