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Letter to Ichinosawa Nyudo


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu on the eighth day of the fifth month of 1275, when he was fifty-four years old. The letter was addressed to the wife of Ichinosawa Nyudo, a lay priest who lived at Ichinosawa on Sado Island. However, in later ages this Gosho was entitled "Letter to Ichinosawa Nyudo," probably because it contains guidance relevant to her husband.

In 1272, on the sixteenth and seventeenth days of the first month, the Daishonin had debated with several hundred priests of other Buddhist sects who had come to his dilapidated hut at Tsukahara on Sado to dispute with him. His triumph on that occasion converted many people to his teachings. In the second month, the Daishonin's prediction of internal strife, which he had made in his Rissho Ankoku Ron," was fulfilled when Hojo Toksuke, an elder half brother of the regent, attempted to seize power, and fighting broke out between factions of the Hojo family in Kyoto and Kamakura. These events won the Daishonin increasing respect, and in the fourth month of 1272 he was transferred from his wretched quarters at Tsukahara to the home of Ichinosawa Nyudo, where he lived for nearly two years, until the third month of 1274, when word arrived that he had been pardoned.

By this time, the number of people on Sado Island professing faith in the Daishonin's teaching continued to grow, and the lay believer Abutsu-bo and his wife Sennichi-ama had become the mainstays of this community. Ichinosawa Nyudo's wife took faith, and the Nyudo himself developed a favorable attitude, though he was a Nembutsu Believer. He died in 1278 without having ever taken faith.

In the beginning part of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin briefly recalls his exile to Izu in 1261, as well as the attempt to behead him at Tatsunokuchi in 1271 and his subsequent exile on Sado. He declares that te has continued to point out the errors of the established sects and to propagate the truth of the Lotus Sutra, even at the risk of his life, in order to repay his debt of gratitude to Shakyamuni Buddha, who is the sovereign, teacher and parent of all people.

While the Daishonin expresses profound gratitude for Ichinosawa Nyudo's protection during his exile on Sado, he also strictly points out that the nyudo is destined to fall into the hell of incessant suffering so long as he adheres to his faith in the erroneous Nembutsu doctrine. He explains that the Mongol attack on the southern islands of Iki and Tsushima in 1274 and the impending threat of a second invasion likewise stem from the belief in misguided teachings of the Japanese people as a whole.

This letter accompanied a copy of the ten volumes of the Lotus Sutra which the Daishonin entrusted to Ichinosawa's wife for her sake and for that of the nyudo's grandmother, who evidently had a stronger feeling for the Lotus Sutra than did Ichinosawa himself. In the letter, hhe explains in detail his reasons for not having sent a copy of the Lotus Sutra to Ichinowasa Nyudo earlier, though he had promised to do so while on Sado, and expresses his concern for the nyudo's ultimate welfare. Lastly, he strongly urges Ichinosawa's wife to forsake her lingering attachment to the Pure Land teachings and to strengthen her faith in the True Law.

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