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The One Essential Phrase


One year before Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon, Myoho-ama asked whether one could attain enlightenment only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. His reply, dated July 3, 1278, is called "The One Essential Phrase."

Very little is known about Myoho-ama. She lived in Okamiya in the province of Suruga. A letter written to her just eleven days after this one speaks of her husband's recent death, so we must assume that the husband must have been very ill when Myoho-ama first wrote. She probably asked the question on behalf of her sick husband, as is also suggested by the final sentence of this letter. Whatever the case, she survived her husband and brother, and was evidently a sincere believer who fully enjoyed her master's confidence.

The Daishonin praises her for asking the question and declares that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the heart of the entire sutra and that it leads all people to enlightenment. He concludes by saying that even if one does not have the wisdom to penetrate the sutra's profound meaning, he or she can still gain tremendous good fortune and attain Buddhahood by chanting its title, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

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