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Establishing the Four Bodhisattvas as the Object of Worship


This letter was written to Toki Jonin, a majordomo of the powerful Chiba clan in Shimosa, on May 17, 1279, when Nichiren Daishonin was fifty-eight. The Daishonin had retired to Mount Minobu five years earlier. Owing to Nikko Shonin's sincere efforts, the propagation of his Buddhism had advanced rapidly, notably in the Atsuhara area near Mount Fuji. Many parishioners of other sects had converted to the Daishonin's teaching, which provoked hostility toward his followers in that area and eventually led to harassment by the authorities. This marked the first time that official persecution of considerable magnitude was directly leveled at ordinary lay believers, rather than at the Daishonin himself Seeing his new converts' unflagging resolve to uphold their faith even under the threat of death, the Daishonin decided that the time had come to inscribe the Dai-Gohonzon, which he did on October 12, 1279, fulfilling the purpose of his advent.

The first part of this letter deals with a question from Toki Jonin about the Daishonin's statement that an object of worship should be made of Lord Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment in the remote past, flanked by the four bodhisattvas. The object of worship which the Daishonin had referred to was the same as that described in "The True Object of Worship," where it reads: "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo appears in the center of the Treasure Tower with Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha seated to the right and left, and the Four Bodhisattvas of the Earth, led byj6gya, flank them" (The Major writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. I, p. 66), and, "Now is when the Bodhisattvas of the Earth will appear in this country and establish the supreme object of worship on the earth which depicts Shakyamuni Buddha of the essential teaching attending the original Buddha" (p. 81).

The object of worship which the Daishonin indicates in these quotations is the Gohonzon, on which Nam-myohorenge-kyo, the life of the original Buddha, appears in the center, flanked by the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Talia, who, in turn, are flanked by the four bodhisattvas. In this present letter, however, the Daishonin refers to the Gohonzon simply as "an object of worship of Lord Shakyamum of the essential teaching flanked by the bodhisattvas who are his original disciples."

On the surface, the Daishonin refers to Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment at gohyaku-jintengo and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. From the viewpoint of his own enlightenment, however, "Shakyamuni of the essential teaching" refers to the original Buddha of kuonganjo or beginningless time. The object of worship in the essential teaching of Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra is described as follows in "The True Object of Worship": "The saha world Shakyamuni revealed in the Juryo chapter is the eternal pure land, impervious to the three calamities and the four cycles of change. In this world the Buddha is eternal, transcending birth and death, and his disciples are also eternal" (p. 66). This explains the object of worship in terms of the ideals'l'--the Buddha and his land-to which people aspired. This is the object of worship Shakyamuni described in the essential teaching of the Lotus Surra for his contemporary disciples.

In contrast, when Nichiren Daishonin states, "As regards the essential teaching, it was addressed exclusively to the people early in the Latter Day of the Law" (P. 71), he means that the object of worship for the Latter Day is implicit in the depths of the essential teaching and that "Bodhisattva Jagya will establish this object of worship in the first five hundred years of the Latter Day." From this we can conclude that the object of worship mentioned in the present Gosho is the Gohonzon.

In the light of Buddhism, the Daishonin proceeds to say, he is the wealthiest person in the world. He makes this statement in terms of the time; that is, he was born at exactly the time when the true object of worship is to be established. However, precisely because he is the original Buddha who can lead all people to enlightenment, he possesses boundless fortune within himself.

In the latter part of this letter, he responds to news from Toki Jonin that some of the believers around Otaj6myb were saying that the theoretical teaching should be discarded. Apparently they thought that since the theoretical teaching does not lead to enlightenment in the Latter Day, there was no need to recite the Hoben (second) chapter in prayer. The Daishonin says that this is a serious misunderstanding, for the Lotus Sutra never repudiates the content of its first fourteen chapters. He explains that different teachings accord with different periods, and the beginning of the Latter Day is the time when the essential teaching is to spread. By this he means, not the latter fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sutra, but Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Juryo (sixteenth) chapter. In this Gosho, the Daishonin clearly indicates that both the Hoben and the Juryo chapters should be read in prayer. Viewed in terms of his enlightenment, these chapters serve to explain and praise the great power of the Gohonzon.

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