Gosho IndexBack to the Index Back to the Gosho

On Prolonging Life


In 1279 Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Myojo, the wife of Toki Jonin. After her first husband died, Myojo married Toki Jonin. Her son by the first marriage was later called Nitcho and became one of the six elder priest-disciples of the Daishonin. Myojo had a second son by Toki Jonin. He too became one of the Daishonin's disciples and, as a priest, assumed the name Nitcho (written in different Chinese characters from the name of his half-brother). Later, he was appointed by Nikko Shonin to be the first chief priest of Omosu Dansho, the Buddhist school of Taiseki-ji temple.

This Gosho explains the principle of changing karma or destiny. Buddhism divides destiny into two categories: mutable and immutable. Both may be either good or bad. Mutable karma has a weaker influence and can be overridden through simple effort. Immutable karma is more deeply rooted, harder to change and is the determining force of the basic direction in our lives. Things about ourselves which we find hard to change -- for instance, our personality or facial features -- may be considered immutable karma. So may effects destined to be felt at a specific time (as Ajatashatru was destined to die on March 7). According to the Kusha Ron of Vasubandhu, there are four causes which created immutable karma: (1) earthly desires arising from the fundamental darkness innate in life; (2) a pure, seeking mind toward Buddhism; (3) daily routine; and (4) Buddhist or secular sins such as killing a Buddhist, one's parents, etc. Shakyamuni's Buddhism takes a somewhat simplistic view of causality: If one is a thief in this lifetime, he will be reborn poor in the next; if he deprecates someone who is handsome, he will be reborn ugly, and so on. Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism teaches that the deepest causes are one's support or slander of the Mystic Law. These causes lie deep within one's life, beyond the ability to sense or conceive. However, "On Prolonging Life" positively asserts that strong faith in and apology to the Gohonzon can change even immutable karma. In this instance, the Daishonin is using the natural life span of a person as an example of immutable karma. By asserting that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can change such karma, he is saying that the unchangeable is affected by prayer to the Gohonzon.

"On Prolonging Life" reveals the author's concern over Myojo's health. His conclusion is clear. The Gohonzon is identified as the most effective medicine for any kind of illness.

BuddhismLotus SutraGosho IndexGohonzon IndexSite Search

Designed by Will Kallander