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Persecution at Tatsunokuchi


On September 21, 1271, only nine days after the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Shijo Kingo, who had accompanied him to the execution site prepared to die alongside his master. The Daishonin was fifty at the time and was being detained at Homma Rokurozaemon's residence in Echi, north of Tatsunokuchi, while the government pondered what action to take regarding him. This was the first extant letter he wrote following the persecution.

The Daishonin expressed his profound admiration of Shijo Kingo who vowed to die a martyr's death beside his master. To his most faithful disciple the Daishonin reveals something about his true identity, which he later described in "The Opening of the Eyes," also given to Shijo Kingo. Here he states, "Tatsunokuchi in Sagami Province is the place where Nichiren gave his life. Because he died there for the Lotus Sutra, how could it be anything less than the Buddha's land?" Why is it that the Daishonin states "he died," when in fact he survived the attempted execution? "The Opening of the Eyes" gives further details when it says, "A person named Nichiren was beheaded in the middle of the night on the twelfth day of the ninth month last year (1271), but his soul reached Sado Island..." This certainly does not mean that his soul departed from his body at the moment of his death. The Daishonin implies that the common mortal called Nichiren died at Tatsunokuchi, but that the original Buddha Nichiren reached Sado Island in order to fulfill his mission.

"The Persecution at Tatsunokuchi" states that the Buddha land is not a specific location where everyone dwells in a blissful state of heightened understanding. According to the principle that the individual and his environment are inseparable, anywhere one dedicates his life to upholding the supreme law of Buddhism is the Buddha land. Here it may seem that the believer is being urged to die for the Lotus Sutra. But that is not the intention. As he states, "Every place where Nichiren meets persecution is the Buddha land." Overcoming difficulties through Buddhist practice develops an individual's Buddha nature. We can safely say that dedicating one's life to the Gohonzon means devoting his time and effort to worshipping the Gohonzon, studying the Daishonin's teachings, and encouraging the faith of others.

The Daishonin states that Shijo Kingo, because of his devoted actions, has already created the causes that will lead to enlightenment. This is implied by the statement that the Daishonin will report Kingo's dedication when he reaches Eagle Peak. Finally, this Gosho explains that the Buddhist gods will surely protect those who seriously carry out the practice of Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin expresses his joy and confidence in this certain knowledge.

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