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Letter to Priest Nichiro in Prison


On the ninth day of the tenth month, 1271, on the eve of his departure for Sado Island, Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to his disciple Nichiro. The Daishonin was then in confinement at the mainland residence of Homma Rokuro Zaemon, the deputy constable of Sado, in Echi in Sagami Province. Nichiro (1245-1320), later designated as one of the six senior disciples, was born in Shimosa Province, a part of present-day Chiba Prefecture.

In 1254 he converted to the Daishonin's teachings together with his father, and received the tonsure under his uncle Nissho, another of the six senior disciples. At the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution in the ninth month Of 1271, Nichiro and other priest-disciples were imprisoned in the custody of Yadoya Mitsunori, an official of the Kamakura government, in a dungeon carved into the side of a hill at Mitsunori's residence in Kamakura. It was through Yadoya Mitsunori that the Daishonin had submitted the "Rissho Ankoku Ron" to Hojo Tokiyori - at the time the retired regent but still the most influential member of the ruling Hojo clan - on the sixteenth day of the seventh month, 1260. It is said that Mitsunori was eventually converted by Nichiro sometime after the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and became the Daishonin's follower.

As may be seen from this brief letter, even when about to embark on the worst period of privation and hardship he had yet endured, the Daishonin's sole thought was for his disciples. He praises Nichiro for putting the teachings of the Lotus Sutra into practice by being willing to give up his life for the sutra's sake, and assures him of its ultimate protection.

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