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Letter to Nichimyo Shonin


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter from Ichinosawa, Sado, on May 25, 1272, when he was fifty-one years old. It was addressed to a follower in Kamakura, a woman who had separated from her husband at a young age. Little is known about her except that she journeyed all the way from Kamakura with her infant daughter Oto Gozen to visit the Daishonin during his exile on Sado Island. Considering the dangers and difficulties of travel and the turmoil of the day, her long journey was nothing short of extraordinary. In recognition of her pure faith, Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter, giving her the Buddhist name Nichimyo Shonin, or Saint Nichimyo.

After the Daishonin went to live in the recesses of Mount Minobu, she again visited him there. He deeply admired her seeking spirit. In August 1275, he wrote her another letter, "The Supremacy of the Law," in which he stated: "Should any calamity befall us, you should immediately come to visit me here, where you will be welcomed wholeheartedly. Should the worst happen, then let us starve together among these mountains. I would imagine your daughter, Oto, has become a fine and intelligent young girl."

The contents of this Gosho can be divided into three main parts. In the beginning of this letter, the Daishonin cites seven stories of Shakyamuni's bodhisattva practice in his past existences as Gyobo Bonji, a wheel-turning king, a bodhisattva who gave his flesh to a leper, Sessen Doji, Bodhisattva Yakuo, Bodhisattva Fukyo and King Suzudan. By carrying out such severe practices in pursuit of Buddhism, Shakyamuni was able to attain Buddhahood. In effect, the Daishonin likens these bodhisattva austerities to Nichimyo's efforts in journeying to Sado, and implies that her seeking spirit will ensure her enlightenment.

In the next part, Nichiren Daishonin explains that the practice of true Buddhism is not as difficult as that of Shakyamuni's Buddhism, because Nam-myoho-renge-kyo contains all the benefits which Shakyamuni Buddha accumulated through his aeons of bodhisattva austerities. Therefore, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we ordinary people in the Latter Day of the Law can, in this lifetime, attain the same enlightened virtues and benefits as Shakyamuni Buddha himself. This is the central theme of this Gosho, in which the Daishonin expounds the essence of his teaching: by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, an ordinary person can become a Buddha.

In the final portion, Nichiren Daishonin praises the strong faith reflected in Nichimyo's willingness to make the long journey to see him on the remote island of Sado, and confers upon her the title of shonin, indicating that she will become a Buddha. He says, "You are undoubtedly the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra among the women of Japan," and concludes with praise for her sincerity.

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