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The Pure and Far-reaching Voice


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Shijo Kingo, a samurai and one of his followers who lived in Kamakura, in the ninth month of 1272, from Ichinosawa on Sado Island. It was prompted by the Daishonin's gratitude for offerings that Shijo Kingo had sent via messenger for his mother's third annual memorial service.

Shijo Kingo served the Ema family, a branch of the ruling Hojo clan. He was highly skilled in both medicine and the martial arts, and in temperament was straightforward, loyal and passionate. He is said to have converted to the Daishonin's Buddhism around 1256, at about the same time as the Ikegami brothers and Kudo Yoshitaka. When the Daishonin was taken to Tatsunokuchi to be beheaded on the twelfth day of the ninth month, 1271, Shijo Kingo accompanied him, having resolved to die by his side. Soon after the Daishonin was exiled to Sado island, Kingo sent a messenger to him with various offerings. Through this messenger the Daishonin entrusted Kingo with his treatise, "The Opening of the Eyes," which he had completed in the second month of 1272. A few months later, Kingo himself made the journey to Sado to visit the Daishonin. He again visited the Daishonin in the fifth month of 1273.

In the beginning of this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin discusses the power of one person, the ruler, to influence an entire nation. This is especially evident in the propagation of Buddhist teachings, where the ruler's support can ensure that Buddhism will prosper, while his opposition will greatly hinder its spread. Citing historical examples, the Daishonin points out that the merits of the various Buddhist sects, which ought to be determined on the basis of their respective teachings, have all too often been judged according to the preferences of those in power. His own tribulations, he adds, arise from the very fact that he has dared to criticize the doctrines in which both the ruler and his subjects believe.

Nevertheless, the Daishonin declares, in light of the Lotus Sutra he is the Buddha's envoy and has made his advent in Japan in accordance with the Buddha's command. Moreover, the Lotus Sutra, whose essence he is propagating, has been affirmed by all Buddhas and encompasses all truths within itself Each word and phrase of the sutra contains the blessings of all Buddhas and is therefore comparable to a wish-granting jewel that is said to possess the power of producing inexhaustible treasures.

In the concluding section, from which the Gosho takes its name, the Daishonin explains the significance of the Buddha's "pure and far-reaching voice." He designates this voice as foremost among the Buddha's thirty-two distinguishing physical features because it expresses the Buddha's mind or intent. This pure and far-reaching voice has been preserved as the written words of the Lotus Sutra; thus the sutra is itself the living body of Shakyamuni Buddha.

In feudal times, when Nichiren Daishonin lived, as well as earlier in India and China, the ruler and his ministers wielded a power over their subjects that was virtually absolute. As this Gosho indicates, without his consent it was extremely difficult to propagate the Buddhist teachings, and monks were obliged to obtain the support of powerful patrons in order to safeguard the Law. Now, however, in those countries where sovereignty rests with the people and freedom of religion is guaranteed, ordinary believers carry the mission to protect and propagate Buddhism. Moreover, regardless of the social system in effect, the power of the Mystic Law far transcends that of any secular authority, another point that Nichiren Daishonin emphasizes in this Gosho.

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