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Letter to Misawa


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter on February 23, 1278, the year before his inscription of the Dai-Gohonzon. The letter is sometimes referred to as "Before and after Sado," because it mentions a distinct difference between the teachings the Daishonin expounded before his exile to Sado Island and those he revealed during and after that incident.

This Gosho is generally thought to have been addressed to Misawa Kojiro, though, according to another account, it may have been sent to his grandson, Misawa Masahiro. In any event, the recipient was one of the Daishonin's lay followers who lived in Fuji District in Suruga Province. No detailed information about him is available. The contents of this letter suggest that he was the lord of a manor and that, as such, he avoided open communication with the Daishonin for fear that the Kamakura government might find out and bring pressure to bear upon him. it would seem that he was never as devoted to the Daishonin as Shijo Kingo or the Ikegami brothers. Nevertheless, the Daishonin was always concerned about him and gave him warm encouragement on what few opportunities he had, while refraining from any action that might cause Misawa embarrassment. In this letter, he also relays encouragement to other believers through Misawa.

Nichiren Daishonin begins this letter by acknowledging the receipt of offerings, and then dwells on the extreme difficulty of practicing Buddhism correctly. Even though one meets and learns the True Law, when he is about to attain Buddhahood, the three obstacles and four devils will emerge and attempt to prevent him from doing so. The worst of those obstructions are the persecutions which the Devil of the Sixth Heaven inflicts on the votary of the Lotus Sutra. Quoting the passage from the Hosshi (tenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra: "Since hatred and jealousy [toward this sutra] abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" the Daishonin equates this passage with the persecutions he himself experienced, thus indicating that he is the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law.

After assuring Misawa that he will never forsake him no matter what may happen, the Daishonin makes the remark: "As for my teachings, regard those before my exile to Sado as equivalent to the Buddha's pre-Lotus Sutra teachings." By this he means that he had not revealed the teaching of the object of worship of the Three Great Secret Laws-the purpose of his appearance in this world-until after he underwent the persecution at Tatsunokuchi on September 12, 1271, and was subsequently exiled to Sado.

Nichiren Daishonin established his Buddhism on April 28, 1253. He spent the eighteen years from that time until the Sado Exile propagating Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his transient capacity as Bodhisattva Jogyo. By experiencing the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and the Sado Exile, he fulfilled the predictionin the Kanji (thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra to the effect that those who propagate this sutra in the Latter Day of the Law will be attacked with swords and staves and will be banished again and again. He had proved to the world that he was the votary of the sutra. He therefore discarded his transient status as Bodhisattva Jogyo and revealed his true identity as the original Buddha from time without beginning.

On the island of Sado, now in his capacity as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin began to "secretly convey" his true teaching which he had withheld before his exile. This teaching is revealed in the two most important of his writings, "The Opening of the Eyes," completed in February 1272, and "The True Object of Worship," written in April of the following year.

In this "Letter to Misawa," after explaining the difference between the pre- and post-Sado teachings and encouraging Misawa, the Daishonin states that he refused to meet Utsubusa and others who had come to visit him as an afterthought on their way back from doing matters quite unrelated to true Buddhism. Believers must think, before anything else, of the original Buddha and his teachings. For a believer of such longstanding faith as Utsubusa to relegate them to a secondary position amounts to slander. The Daishonin's refusal was an expression of his mercy, for by seeing his visitors he would have allowed them to commit this disrespect. In many places in the Gosho the Daishonin strictly warns against slander so that believers will be able to practice correctly.

The Daishonin concludes by denouncing the Shingon sect and its priests. Before the Sado Exile, he primarily refuted the errors of the Zen, Nembutsu, and Ritsu sects. During and after his exile, however, he chose Shingon as his main target of attack. At that time, Japan faced the threat of another invasion by the Mongols, and the Kamakura government had ordered the Shingon priests to pray for victory. The Daishonin had criticized Shingon before, as a misleading doctrine that was ruining the nation, but this time he was also concerned about paving the way for establishing the true object of worship. He considered refutation of the Shingon errors essential because the Shingon sect had preceded him in inscribing mandalas as objects of worship.

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