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On the Urabon


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this Gosho on the thirteenth day of the seventh month in 1279 for the grandmother of Jibu-bo.

Nichii, one of the Daishonin's disciples. It was written in response to the offerings she had made just before the yearly urabon festival. This Gosho is also known as the "Letter to the Grandmother of Jibu-bo," and in it, the Daishonin offers a detailed explanation of the origin of the festival. Other views exist concerning exactly when the Daishonin wrote this Gosho-one opinion sets the date at 1277, while others suggest 1280.

It is thought that Jibu-bo's grandmother lived in Ihara District of Suruga Province. According to Nikka Shonin's Deshibun honzon mokuroku (List of Disciples upon Whom Nikko Bestowed the Gohonzon), Jibu-bo, originally a Tendai priest at Shijflku-in temple in Suruga, took faith in the Daishonin's teaching and studied under Nichiji, who later became one of the six senior disciples of the Daishonin. Although details are unclear, it is believed that it was Jibu-bo who urged his grandmother to take faith in the Daishonin's teachings.

The Daishonin begins this letter with a summary of the contents of the Urabon Sutra (Sutra of the Festival of the Dead), thereby explaining the origins of the urabon festival. He reveals why Shakyamuni's disciple Maudgalyiyana, despite his transcendental powers, was unable to save his deceased mother, who was suffering in the realm of hungry spirits. Maudgalyiyana's powers were inadequate, says the Daishonin, because he was a follower of the Hinayana teachings and observed the Hinayana precepts. But once Maudgalyiyana had attained Buddhahood through his practice of the Lotus Sutra, his father and mother were also able to achieve enlightenment, and his mother was instantly relieved of her sufferings.

Citing further examples illustrating the effect one's deeds have upon both one's ancestors and descendants, the Daishonin notes that the great evil committed by Taira no Kiyomori brought suffering upon himself and his offspring. In contrast, the great good of believing in the Lotus Sutra enables countless generations of one's ancestors and descendants to attain enlightenment. In conclusion, the Daishonin encourages Jibu-bo's grandmother, saying that because of both her genuine sincerity and her grandson's devotion to the Lotus Sutra, she herself will certainly attain Buddhahood.

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