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Letter to Konichi-bo


This letter was written from Mount Minobu in March 1276 to Konichi-bo, a widow who lived in Amatsu in Awa Province. Her son, Yashiro, had converted earlier to Nichiren Daishonin's teachings, and through him she became a convert herself. While the Daishonin was in exile on Sado Island, she sent him robes and other articles, and continued to make offerings to him after he retired to Mount Minobu. She enjoyed the Daishonin's trust and received several Gosho from him, including "On the Buddha's Behavior."

Some time after her conversion, Yashiro died. This Gosho is the Daishonin's reply to a letter from Konichi-bo expressing anxiety about the fact that her son, as a samurai, had killed others and asking what would happen to him in his next life. The Daishonin encouraged her by saying that Yashiro had converted her to faith in the Lotus Sutra and could be saved from the evil paths by her strong faith. Konichi-bo overcame her deep sorrow and remained a sincere believer in the Daishonin's Buddhism throughout her life.

The former part of this Gosho chronicles the events from September 1271, when Nichiren Daishonin incurred the wrath of the government and was exiled to Sado Island, to 1274, when he was pardoned and retired to Mount Minobu. In this respect, the content of this letter is quite similar to that of "On the Buddha's Behavior," and in addition, both were written in 1276. For this reason, "Letter to Konichi-bo" was at one time regarded as part of "On the Buddha's Behavior." However, Nichiko Shonin, the fifty-ninth high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, considered them two independent writings, because the latter part of "Letter to Konichi-bo" is completely different from the Daishonin's autobiographical account in "On the Buddha's Behavior."

In the beginning of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin recalls his feelings while in exile on Sado and expresses his appreciation for Konichi-bo's offering to him at that time. He explains that because he had spoken out so strongly against the established Buddhist sects, he had no prospect whatsoever of being pardoned and returning to Kamakura. Nevertheless, he remained convinced, in the light of Buddhist Law, that the votary of the Lotus Sutra would never fail to receive protection from the heavenly gods. He accordingly admonished Bonten, Taishaku and the other gods to protect him and thereby fulfill their pledge made in the Buddha's presence. As a result, he says, a rebellion broke out within the Hojo clan and came to a head in February 1272. This development accorded exactly with the Daishonin's prediction of "internal strife" made in his "Rissho Ankoku Ron" (On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism) as early as 1260. Astounded, the government authorities released his imprisoned disciples and, in February 1274, issued a pardon for the Daishonin. He returned to Kamakura on March 26. Hei no Saemon, the deputy chief (the chief being the regent himself) of the Office of Military and Police Affairs, had an interview with him on April 8. At that time, the Daishonin remonstrated with him but to no avail. This marked his third remonstration with the government. In keeping with an old Chinese tradition that a sage who warns his sovereign three times without being heeded should withdraw to a mountain forest, he went to live in a hermitage on Mount Minobu.

There, overwhelmed by nostalgia for his native province, the Daishonin received the news of the death of Konichi-bo's son. In the next part of this letter he recounts his impressions of Yashiro and expresses his deep sympathy for Konichi-bo's sorrow. In reply to her question, the Daishonin expounds the principle of sange, or acknowledging and striving to correct one's past misdeeds, by saying "Even a small error will destine one to the evil paths if one does not repent it. Yet even a grave offense can be eradicated if one repents of it sincerely." Citing the examples of Ajita and King Ajatashatru, he assures Konichi-bo that her son Yashiro's offense can be eradicated, because he had faith in the Lotus Sutra. Finally, the Daishonin cautions her against being influenced by any enemy of the Lotus Sutra.

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