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Two Kinds of Faith


In October 1274, the Mongol forces swept across the islands of Tsushima and Iki and attacked Kyushu, the southern part of Japan. TheJapanese were terrified that the Mongols would invade Japan again at the next opportunity. During this period of unrest, Nichiren Daishonin's disciples exerted themselves in propagation, especially near Mount Fuji. The shakubuku movement was progressing rapidly there under the direction of Nikko Shonin, who was later to become the second high priest. Many new believers, both priests and laymen, resided in a nearby area known as Atsuhara. Angered by the success of Nikko Shonin's efforts, the priests of a local Tendai temple began harassing the converts. Eventually, on the pretext of a quarrel over land rights, they sent a band of warriors to attack a number of unarmed farmers of the convert group. Twenty of the farmers were arrested and sent to Kamakura for trial by the government authorities. They were tortured and ordered to quit their faith, but they fearlessly resisted. Three were eventually beheaded.

This incident is known as the Atsuhara Persecution. It is significant that, while earlier persecutions had been aimed chiefly at the Daishonin, this one was directed against his followers. Because the farmers refused to yield, the Daishonin was convinced that his disciples had now grown strong enough in their faith to risk their lives if necessary to uphold the Mystic Law. This motivated him to inscribe the Dai-Gohonzon-the true object of worship for all mankind for eternity-on October 12, 1279.

This letter was written on February 25, 1278, to NanjoTokimitsu, the lord of Ueno District, Suruga Province. Tokimitsu had been exceptionally faithful since childhood in the face of all difficulties and had the courage necessary to protect the Daishonin's Buddhism. During the Atsuhara Persecution, he played a crucial role in protecting the suffering believers. His own home was their main refuge. As a lord, he exerted some influence and used it to guard the Daishonin's lay followers and priests. His actions did not meet with approval by the Kamakura government, and unreasonably heavy taxes were levied on his estate. Eventually he could no longer afford to keep a horse-a hardship for a samurai-or to buy clothes for his wife and children.

Moreover, Nanjo Tokimitsu, like the majority of people of Japan, was hard pressed for even basic necessities, because the country had been troubled by widespread famine. In spite of his own financial difficulties, however, he continued sending provisions to the Daishonin at Minobu. This letter is a reply in which Nichiren Daishonin expresses his gratitude for Lord Nanjo's offerings and praises him for his deep sincerity.

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