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The Proof of the Lotus Sutra


This letter was sent through Nikko Shonin to Nanjo Tokimitsu (Narija Shichirojiro) on February 28, 1282, When Nichiren Daishonin's death was drawing near. On October 13 of the same year, his great and turbulent life came to an end. This is one of several letters that the Daishonin sent to his beloved disciples in his last year. He had said in a letter to Tokimitsu's mother toward the end of the preceding year: "Due to my decline in health I have refrained from replying to those who sent me letters." As revealed in this letter, however, his profound compassion and consideration for his disciples did not waver in the least. Despite his poor health, the Daishonin took up his writing brush to encourage Tokimitsu so that the latter could overcome his illness. This shows how dedicated Tokimitsu was to the cause of Buddhism and how highly the Daishonin valued him.

Nanjo Tokimitsu was born in 1259 and, young as he was, had already shouldered his deceased father's responsibilities long before the time he received this letter. He was lord of an area called Ueno which covered a vast slope of Mount Fuji including the present compound of Taiseki-ji, the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu. A follower of the Daishonin since childhood, Tokimitsu was one of the leading lay believers in the Fuji area. Especially during the Atsuhara Persecution, at considerable risk to himself, he exerted his influence to protect believers in the Fuji area. For these actions, the Daishonin honored him with the title "Sage of Ueno" although he was just twenty-one. He and his wife Myoren consistently made offerings to the Daishonin, even while struggling to raise several children and enduring a burden of heavy taxes imposed on them by authorities who disapproved of their religious convictions.

In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin encouraged the twenty-four year old Tokimitsu to overcome his illness. Tokimitsu in fact recovered and lived a long life, and even after the Daishonin's death he served Nikko Shonin and donated to him the land upon which Taiseki-ji temple now stands. He died in 1332.

The letter is traditionally called "The Proof of the Lotus Sutra," for it mentions that all Buddhas gave credence to the truth of the Lotus Sutra. However, it is also called "On Life and Death" since Tokimitsu was then battling a serious illness. In the letter Nichiren Daishonin assured Tokimitsu he would attain enlightenment because he continued to uphold the Lotus Sutra (Gohonzon) in the face of oppression from the government. All the Buddhas in the universe agree that the believers of the sutra are sure to attain Buddhahood. He stated that because Tokimitsu appeared certain to attain enlightenment, devils and demons would desperately try to impede him. The Daishonin himself strongly enjoined them to stop harassing his beloved disciple.

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