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Aspiration for the Buddha Land


On the tenth day of the tenth month, Nichiren Daishonin left Echi under armed escort for Sado Island, where he was to be exiled. On the twenty-first, the party reached the port of Teradomari on the Japan Sea, where adverse winds compelled them to wait for several days before making the crossing to Sado. The Daishonin reached Sado on the twenty-eighth, and on the first day of the eleventh month arrived at Tsukahara, a desolate field used as a graveyard that was to be his place of banishment. There he was given as lodging a small dilapidated shrine called the Sammai-do. Wind and snow came in through gaping holes in its walls and roof. Perhaps because of the severe lack of food and shelter, the Daishonin soon sent back to the mainland some of the young priests who had accompanied him. Just before doing so, he wrote "Aspiration for the Buddha Land" and entrusted it to them for his follower Toki Jonin. It was the first letter he wrote from Sado Island.

Toki Jonin, a staunch believer, served as vassal to Lord Chiba in Shimosa Province. Toki was a lay priest who had converted to the Daishonin's teaching around 1254. Both learned and devout, he received many important Gosho, most notably "The True Object of Worship." While Nichiren Daishonin was in exile on Sado, he relied on Toki to convey messages of encouragement to believers in the Shimosa area. This particular Gosho indicates that he had also asked Toki to look after his personal books and papers during his absence.

The Gosho opens with a brief reference to the harsh conditions of the Daishonin's life at Tsukahara. Though he declines to describe his hardships in detail, one can nevertheless glimpse through his almost casual remarks the terrible adversity he was being called upon to endure. In this letter, he voices his readiness to meet death if necessary for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, as well as his joy at knowing himself to be the sutra's votary. He also declares that the supreme Law never before revealed by any of the great Buddhist teachers of the past has now made its advent. He interprets the great Shoka earthquake of 1257 as an omen of its rise, and cites various passages from the Lotus Sutra and other sources to substantiate his assertion that now, in the beginning of the Latter Day, is the exact time for this great Law (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws) to spread.

In the last few lines, the Daishonin explains that since our life in this world is transient, we should dedicate it for the sake of the True Law. Rather than fleeting satisfactions, our ultimate goal should be to attain "the Buddha land" or enlightenment - that state of boundless joy in which one realizes the eternal truth within.

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