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Encouragement to a Sick Person


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month Of 1264, when he was forty-three. Its recipient was Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, the father of Nanjo Tokimitsu. About one month had passed since Tojo Kagenobu, the steward of Tojo Village, had attempted to kill the Daishonin at Komatsubara in Awa Province on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The enmity of Kagenobu, a confirmed Nembutsu believer, had earlier forced the Daishonin to flee Awa, immediately following the first public declaration of his teaching in 1253, and he had not been able to return since. However, in 1264, the year after he had been pardoned from his sentence of exile to Izu and had returned to Kamakura, the Daishonin learned that his mother was seriously ill, and returned to his native province despite the danger to himself. After praying successfully for her recovery, he remained in Awa and devoted himself to the propagation of the Mystic Law. At that time, a believer named Kudo Yoshitaka invited the Daishonin to visit him. En route from a temple called Renge-ji to Yoshitaka's residence, the Daishonin and his party were ambushed by Tojo Kagenobu and his men at a place called Komatsubara. This incident is known as the Komatsubara Persecution. Even after this display of hostility, the Daishonin stayed on in Awa and continued his propagation efforts.

Not long after the Komatsubara Persecution, the Daishonin learned that Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro had fallen ill, and wrote this letter to encourage him. Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro was the steward of Ueno Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province; he was also called Lord Ueno. At some time between 1260 and 1261, or possibly between 1263 and 1264, while on an official tour of duty in Kamakura, he met Nichiren Daishonin and converted to his teaching. However, it appears from this letter that he still retained a lingering attachment to his earlier belief in the Nembutsu and hesitated to commit himself exclusively to the Lotus Sutra.

In the opening passage of this letter, the Daishonin encourages Nanjo Shichiro to strengthen his faith in the face of his serious illness. He then sets forth the criteria called the five guides for propagation-the teaching, the people's capacity, the time, the country and the sequence of propagation - factors that one must correctly understand and take into account in propagating Buddhism. The Daishonin seems to have formulated the concept of the five guides while in exile on Izu, and they are explained in detail in "The Teaching, Capacity, Time and Country" (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 4, pp. 7-21), which he wrote during that period. By elaborating on these five criteria in the present Gosho, he emphasizes the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra among all other teachings, and encourages Nanjo Shichiro to discard his attachment to the Nembutsu once and for all, arousing a single-minded faith in the Mystic Law.

Next, the Daishonin briefly describes the Komatsubara Persecution, which had occurred the month before, pointing out that he alone has suffered persecution for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, just as the sutra predicts. He therefore declares himself to be the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. He concludes this letter by saying that if Nanjo Shichiro sustains his faith in the Lotus Sutra as the Daishonin's disciple, he will be able to enjoy its benefits in both this lifetime and the next.

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