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Letter of Petition from Yorimoto


This letter of petition was written by Nichiren Daishonin in the sixth month Of 1277 on behalf of his disciple Shijo Nakatsukasa Saburo Zaemon-no-jo Yorimoto, or Shijo Kingo, who had been served an official letter of reprimand from his lord, Ema Chikatoki. The petition, addressed to Lord Ema, asserts that Yorimoto was being subjected to unjustified slander.

On the ninth day of the sixth month, 1277, a religious debate took place at Kuwagayatsu in Kamakura, in which Sammi-ko (also known by the more commonly used name Sammi-bo), a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin, soundly defeated the priest Ryuzo-bo, who had been enjoying considerable prestige. The audience was so pleased that they begged Sammi-bo to remain and preach for them.

Yorimoto was present then merely as a member of the audience. However, on the twenty-fifth day of the sixth month, about two weeks later, he was suddenly served an official letter from his lord, which accused him of having forcibly disrupted the debate and shown contempt for the priests Ryuzo-bo and Ryuzo-bo's mentor, Ryokan - whom Lord Ema revered. The letter further charged Yorimoto with disobeying his lord, in defiance of both Buddhist and secular custom, and ordered him to write an oath to the effect that he would discard his faith in the Lotus Sutra. if he refused to do so, Lord Ema threatened, his fief would be confiscated and he would be banished.

Yorimoto immediately wrote a report of the entire affair and sent it with Lord Ema's official letter to Nichiren Daishonin at Mount Minobu. In his report he expressed his firm resolve never to write an oath discarding his faith, even if his fief were to be confiscated.

Yorimoto's messenger left Kamakura on the afternoon of the twenty-fifth and arrived at Minobu on the evening of the twenty-seventh. Nichiren Daishonin was delighted to learn that his disciple was determined to uphold his faith and propagate the Law even at the cost of his life. He also perceived the machinations of Ryokan and Ryuzo-bo behind this incident. He therefore wrote this letter of petition on Yorimoto's behalf, titling it "Letter of Petition from Yorimoto."

In it the Daishonin sought to correct Lord Ema's misunderstanding about Yorimoto's behavior during the debate, and to expose the real intentions of the priests Ryokan and Ryuzo-bo, and enable Lord Ema to understand the error of their teachings. The petition also clarifies what true loyalty from a vassal to his lord really means-in both Buddhist and secular terms.

First, Yorimoto (actually the Daishonin, writing In the name of Yorimoto) outlines the background of the Kuwagayatsu Debate and the course of the debate itself. He denies as a total fabrication the accusation that he disrupted the proceedings with a group of armed men, and requests the opportunity to confront his accusers in his lord's presence.

The petition next addresses Lord Ema's statement, in his official letter, of his reverence for the priest Ryokan. Yorimoto exposes this priest's hypocrisy by revealing that, although Ryokan habitually preaches against destroying even a single blade of grass, he actually plotted to have the Daishonin executed.

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