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Letter to Horen


Soya Kyoshin, to whom this letter was addressed, lived in Soya Village in Katsushika District of Shimosa Province. Sometime around 1260 he converted to the Daishonin's teachings. Then, around 1271, he took the tonsure and became a lay, priest, whereupon Nichiren Daishonin bestowed upon him the Buddhist name Horen Nichirai. At the time he received this letter, Kyoshin had been practicing the Daishonin's Buddhism as one of the leading believers in the area for about fifteen years.

This somewhat lengthy Gosho was written at Minobu in the fourth month of 1275, when the Daishonin was fifty-four years old. it is one among nine extant writings that the Daishonin sent to Kyoshin, two of which were written in classical Chinese, their contents clearly indicating that he was highly educated. This "Letter to Horen" is also known by the title "How Father and Son May Attain Buddhahood."

The Daishonin had just received from Kyoshin a written declaration that was commonly read aloud at a memorial service, in which he explained that he had recited the Lotus Sutra to commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of his father's death. In addition, Kyoshin mentioned that he had been performing a morning recitation of the Jigage, or the verse section of the Juryo (sixteenth) chapter of the sutra, daily since the time of his father's passing. In response, the Daishonin tells him that his devotion to the sutra is the truest form of filial piety, since only the Lotus Sutra can lead one's parents, and all other living beings, to Buddhahood.

Here the Daishonin introduces the ancient Chinese story of the calligrapher Wu-lung and his son I-lung, in order to illustrate how immeasurable the merit is that Ky,5shin has been transferring to his deceased father through his continued recitation of the Jigage portion of the Lotus Sutra.

In the story, the calligrapher I-lung transcribes the title of each volume of the Lotus Sutra. As a result, he is able to save his father from his terrible distress in the hell of incessant suffering. But even such benefits as these, the Daishonin encourages Ky6shin, cannot compare to the benefits to be obtained from reciting the sutra. The Daishonin tells him that the Jigage represents the very heart of the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, and that the benefits to be gained from reciting it can only be calculated and expressed by a Buddha.

The Daishonin also gives his disciple instructions in various other teachings. He discusses the wonderful rewards to be gained by one who praises and makes offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day of the Law. He also discusses the great gravity of the offense incurred by one who slanders the votary of the Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day.

With regard to specific details about the practice of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin points out that the way to practice its teachings will necessarily vary with the times, and that a person of wisdom is one who perceives the times correctly and spreads the Law accordingly. And he declares that practice in the Latter Day means spreading the Law without begrudging one's life. Because he himself has carried out precisely this sort of practice, the Daishonin says, he has been persecuted by the authorities and is detested by all the people of Japan. And, he notes, he was earlier forced to live at a bleak and desolate location in exile on Sado Island, and is now dwelling where there are no provisions at all, in an isolated mountain valley called Minobu. The Daishonin mentions how moved he is that Kyoshin has come, all the way to see him in such a forsaken place.

Commenting upon his three remonstrations with the Kaniakura authorities, the Daishonin proclaims that it is their disregard for his warnings that has brought down upon the country a string of major calamities.

And at the very end of this Gosho, the Daishonin explains why some people who slander the Lotus Sutra seem not to receive any punishment at all. Those who slander the Law in existence after existence, he says, will receive no further warnings in this lifetime for their slanderous deeds.

For further details regarding this matter, the Daishonin asks Haren to refer to the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra. it is also discussed in "The Opening of the Eyes" (see Major Writings, vol. 2, PP. 197-99).

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