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The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith


Amongst the scores of personal letters included in the Gosho, there are many in which the reader can see himself mirrored in the circumstances the Daishonin treats. One gets an uncanny feeling that the documents, written some seven hundred years ago, were forecasts of the destiny facing all mankind, and therefore appropriate for the people practicing true Buddhism today.

The topic of this reply to Shijo Kingo is the difficulty of maintaining the practice. And since Shijo Kingo received thirty-seven such letters (extant), the title here derives from the subject matter. Hence, "The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith," written in March 1275.

Shijo Kingo was then in a precarious situation. His lord, and his fellow warriors at the manor, showed open resentment toward him. The message he received from Nichiren Daishonin was brief, and to the point: stand fast and don't allow anything to disturb your faith.

Nichiren Daishonin expresses wonder that Shijo Kingo, in facing life's problems, did not recall the prediction in the Lotus Sutra that its followers in the time of the Latter Day of the Law would incur harsh opposition. He even questions whether the report he heard of Kingo's anxiety is true or not. In any case, he tells Kingo that the only solution is strict discipline in his practice of Buddhism. The benefits, he adds, will be strength of character.

There is another matter of importance here. The sutra offers the promise of "...peace and security in this life and good circumstances in the next..." Happiness is not the absence of problems. That is the point the Daishonin is making. The sutra promises happiness by endowing the sincerely practicing Buddhist with vitality, fortune and wisdom, for these are the keys to happiness in the real world.

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