Reply to Yasaburo
In your letter you say, "Although I am an ignorant layman, among the teachings I have heard from you, I was especially impressed by the passage in the second volume of the Lotus Sutra that says, 'Now this threefold world [is all my domain...]'" This passage means that this present country of Japan is the domain of Shakyamuni Buddha. Not only do the Sun Goddess, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, Emperor Jimmu and all the other gods as well as the ruler of the nation on down to the common people all dwell within his realm, but he is a Buddha to whom we are greatly indebted on three accounts. First, he is our sovereign; second, he is out teacher; and third, he is our parent. Among all the Buddhas of the ten directions, only Shakyamuni Buddha is endowed with these three virtues. Therefore, even if all the people of the country of Japan were to serve Shakyamuni Buddha wholeheartedly just as they now do Amida Buddha, because they would be placing him side by side with another Buddha and treating him in the same manner, that would still be a grave error. For example, though someone were one's own ruler and a wise man besides, if one were to shift one's allegiance to the king of another country, and while dwelling in Japan pay honor to the King of China or Koguryo and slight the sovereign of Japan, could such a person be called one who honors the great sovereign of this country?
This is all the more true in the case of the priests of Japan, who without exception have shaved their heads and donned their robes as disciples of the Tathagata Shakyamuni. They are not the disciples of Amida Buddha. Nevertheless, priests who have no halls in their temples where Shakyamuni is enshrined or where the Lotus Sutra meditation is practiced, or who have no painted or wooden images [of Shakyamuni] nor even a copy of the Lotus Sutra, are setting aside Shakyamuni Buddha, who is endowed with all three virtues. Throughout the country, in each district, village and household, they erect more images than there are people of Amida Buddha, who possesses not a single one of these virtues, and chant the name of Amida Buddha exclusively, sixty or eighty thousand times a day. Although such acts appear to be most admirable, when we view the matter in light of the Lotus Sutra, we find that these pious people are guilty of offenses heavier than those of wicked men who commit the ten evil acts daily. Impious men do not rely on any Buddha whatsoever, so they cannot be accused of having changed their loyalties. Moreover, if they should become pious people, they might even devote themselves to the Lotus Sutra. Yet it seems impossible that the people of Japan today could ever incline their hearts with more seriousness and affection toward Shakyamuni Buddha than toward Amida Buddha, or toward the Lotus Sutra than toward the Nembutsu. Thus, they are evildoers who only resemble virtuous people. And among evildoers, they are the worst of the most terrible slanderers and icchantika in all the world. Concerning such people, Shakyamuni Buddha declared in the second volume of the Lotus Sutra, "After they die, they will fall into the hell of incessant suffering."
The priests of Japan today are all men of great evil, surpassing even Devadatta or the Venerable Kokalika. And because lay people revere them and make them offerings, this country is being transformed before our eyes into the hell of incessant suffering. Countless people are in their present bodies undergoing starvation and pestilence, horrible agonies such as were never known in previous ages, and in addition, they will be attacked by a foreign power. This is due solely to the workings of Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and other deities.
In all Japan, I, Nichiren, alone have understood why such things are happening. At first I pondered whether or not I should speak out. Yet what was I to do? Could I turn my back on the teachings of the Buddha who is father and mother to all living beings? Resolving to bear whatever might befall me, I began to speak out, and in these more than twenty years I have been driven from my dwelling, my disciples have been killed, I have been wounded, exiled twice and finally came close to being beheaded. I spoke out solely because I have long known that the people of Japan would meet with great suffering and felt pity for them. Thoughtful persons should therefore realize that I have met these trials for their sake. If they were people who understood their obligations or who were capable of reason, then out of two blows that fall upon me, they would receive one in my stead. But far from it--rather, they arouse hatred toward me, which is something I cannot understand. And lay people, not having heard the truth of matters, drive me from my dwelling place or hate my disciples. It is beyond comprehension. For example, even if one unknowingly mistook his parent for an enemy and reviled or struck and killed him, how could he escape the guilt of that offense? These people do not recognize their own belligerence but instead think that I, Nichiren, am belligerent. They are like a jealous woman who glares with furious eyes at a courtesan and, unaware of her own disagreeable expression, complains that the courtesan's gaze is frightening.
These things have happened solely because the ruler failed to inquire of me [about the truth of the Buddhist doctrines]. The reason he did not investigate is because the people of this country are guilty of so many offenses that their evil karma has destined them without fail to be attacked by a foreign country in this present existence and to fall into the hell of incessant suffering in the next--[you should explain matters in this way].
Then declare to your opponent: "I believe all this because it is clearly apparent in the sutras. Even though you may attack and threaten worthless persons such as ourselves or drive us from our homes, in the end you will never get away with it. Not even the Sun Goddess or Bodhisattva Hachiman could compel the obedience of this priest [Nichiren], let alone common mortals! Thus we hear that he has never quailed in the face of successive persecutions but has become all the more firmly determined."
If that priest says something in reply, respond by asking if what you have just said is to be accounted a distorted view. Ask him if the Lotus Sutra does not indeed contain a passage to the effect that Shakyamuni Buddha is our parent, our teacher and our sovereign. If he says that it does, demand to know if there is another passage stating that Amida Buddha is his parent, sovereign and teacher: Yes or no? If he replies that such a sutra passage exists, inquire if he then has two fathers. If he says that there is no such passage, then demand to know why he has abandoned his parent and is cherishing another person altogether. In addition, you should assert that the Lotus Sutra in no way resembles the other sutras, quoting the passage, "In these more than forty years, [I have not yet revealed the truth.]" If he cites the passage, "She shall directly go to the tranquil and happy land," then demand to know if this means that he yields the point on which you have just cornered him, and if so you should further explain the meaning of this passage.
You must be firmly resolved. Do not begrudge your fief; do not think of your wife and children. Do not endanger the Dharma by relying upon others. You should simply make up your mind. Look at the world this year as a mirror. When so many have died, the fact that you have survived until now was in order that you might meet this opportunity. Here is where you will cross the Uji River. Here is where you will ford the Seta. This event will determine whether you win honor or whether you disgrace your name. It is said that human form is hard to obtain and that the Lotus Sutra is difficult to believe. Be resolved that Shakyamuni, Taho and the Buddhas of the ten directions will all gather and enter into your body to assist you. If you should be summoned to see the steward, you should first explain all this thoroughly.
With my deep respect,
The fourth day of the eighth month in the third year of Kenji (1277), cyclical sign hinoto-ushi
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 6, page 231.
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