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Banishment to Sado


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in the tenth month of 1271 at Echi in Sagami Province, just before he was exiled to Sado Island. It was sent to someone the Daishonin knew at Seicho-ji temple in Awa Province, possibly a priest called Enjo-bo, with the intention that it also be shown to other priests and lay believers. Another title of this Gosho is "Letter to a Friend at Seicho-ji."

On the twelfth day of the ninth month, 1271, Nichiren Daishonin, though innocent of any crime, was arrested by Hei no Saemon, the deputy chief of the Office of Police and Military Affairs, and taken at nighttime to the execution grounds at Tatsunokuchi. This turn of events had been brought about by the machinations of Ryokan and other eminent priests, who saw in the Daishonin's propagation efforts a threat to their influence and prestige.

When the execution attempt failed, the Daishonin was remanded to the custody of Homma Rokuro Zaemon Shigetsura, the deputy constable of Sado Island. He was confined for nearly a month at Homma's mainland residence in Echi, not far from Kamakura, while government officials debated his fate. A sentence of exile was finally decided upon, and Nichiren Daishonin left for Sado Island, his designated place of banishment, on the tenth day of the tenth month, escorted by Homma's warriors.

This letter, dated only "the tenth month," is thought to have been written just before the Daishonin left Echi. Another view places the date of its writing shortly after his arrival on Sado. (The wording of the opening passage in the original supports either interpretation; the former has been followed in this translation.)

Exile to Sado was a harsh punishment, second only to the death penalty. Many of the Daishonin's followers must have lost heart, thinking that they would never see him again. in this letter, he declares that he has met this persecution solely for the sake of the Lotus Sutra; the very fact that it has arisen serves to demonstrate that he "reads" the Lotus Sutra with his entire being. Though brief, this Gosho, in that it seeks to dispel doubts on the part of the Daishonin's followers and revive their flagging courage by pointing to his mission as the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day, may be said to foreshadow the Daishonin's major treatise "The Opening of the Eyes," written three months later.

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