Letter to Akimoto
This Gosho was written at Minobu on the twenty-seventh day of the first month in 1280, when Nichiren Daishonin was fiftynine years old. It was sent to Akimoto Taro Hyoe-no-Jo, who lived in Imba District of Shimosa Province, in response to the offerings of thirty cylindrical vessels and sixty plates that Akimoto had made to the Daishonin. In 1260, after the Matsubagayatsu Persecution, the Daishonin had left Kamakura to stay at Toki Jonin's residence in Katsushika District of Shimosa Province. Here the Daishonin delivered the so-called hundred-day lecture at the Hokke hall built on Toki Jonin's estate. And it is around this time that Akimoto is believed to have converted to the Daishonin's teachings. It is also thought that he may have been a relative of Toki Jonin. Akimoto was on friendly terms with Soya Kyoshin and (Ota Jomyo, both lay believers, who lived in the same area and took faith around the same time. He died in the ninth month of 1291 and his residence later became Shahon-ji temple.
The Atsuhara Persecution had taken place three months before the Daishonin wrote this letter; in addition, the forces of the Mongol Empire were preparing for a second invasion of Japan, and people's hearts were heavy with foreboding. Winter at Minobu, where the Daishonin's hut Stood, was extraordinarily cold, and there was a great scarcity of food and provisions. It was in this atmosphere of unspeakable hardship, cut off from civilization and visitors, that the Daishonin received Akimoto's gifts.
The Daishonin begins this letter by referring to the cylindrical vessels to illustrate the importance of cultivating a perfect attitude in faith. He notes that vessels have four inherent faults-overturning, leaking, being contaminated and having their contents mixed-that correspond in faith to obstacles blocking a person's path to enlightenment. A vessel without these faults is called a perfect or complete vessel, he explains. And, he adds, a person whose mind of faith is perfect will never be lacking in wisdom. The Daishonin then praises Akimoto, noting that the fact that the vessels he offered are "sturdy and thick," and that the lacquer is pure, is a reflection of the strength of his faith. He also assures Akimoto that he will certainly attain Buddhahood.
In the next section, the Daishonin clarifies the importance of rebuking slander. He asserts that his refutations of the Nembutsu and other sects have made him the most hated man in Japan, bringing upon him jealousy and persecution that have threatened his life. He points out that it is he alone who has endured this kind of unparalleled persecution.
The Daishomn next touches on three principles, regarding slanderers, the families of slanderers and the country of slanderers, that one must understand when studying the Lotus Sutra, and explains what one must do to avoid the consequences of inclusion in any of these three groups. He also reveals the benefits to be obtained from refuting slander and the way to ensure peace and tranquillity in one's country. Furthermore, he declares that "the guilt of the eminent monks of the Tendai sect"-which originally based itself on the Lotus Sutra but later adopted the esoteric doctrines of Shingon and joined forces with the Nembutsu, Zen and Ritsu sects-far exceeds the slander of the members of those other heretical sects.
Next the Daishonin introduces the story of the waterfall known as the Dragon Gate in order to illustrate the extreme difficulty of believing in the Lotus Sutra and achieving Buddhahood. He then explains the strict Buddhist principle of admonishing slanderers. It stipulates that no matter how learned one may be, if one sees an enemy of the Lotus Sutra but falls to admonish that person out of fear, one will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. He states that, because he has acted in accord with this unequivocating principle, he has endured great persecution, mistreatment and slander; and he writes that now, believing his past offenses to have been eradicted, he has settled in Mount Minobu. In conclusion, he describes the geographic setting of Minobu, as well as the various hardships of his life there, thanking Akimoto for his precious offerings.
Designed by Will Kallander