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Reply to Hoshina Goro Taro


From 1264 through 1267, Nichiren Daishonin remained in the area around his native Awa Province and conducted a vigorous propagation campaign, plunging into the midst of the common people and talking with them on an equal basis. His efforts won him many converts, and a religious movement began to take shape.

In Kazusa Province to the north of Awa, the Daishonin converted the entire clan of Sakuma Hyogo, the lord of Okitsu in that area. It is said that Hoshina Goro Taro was one of Sakuma Hyogo's retainers, who converted to the Daishonin's teachings together with his lord when the Daishonin returned from Izu to his native place, Kominato, in the autumn of 1264. Because of the anger of Tojo Kagenobu, the steward of the area and a confirmed believer in Nembutsu, Nichiren Daishonin had been unable to return home even after hearing about his father's death in 1258. However, news of his mother Myoren's grave illness, in addition to a lessening of governmental pressures, prompted his decision to return to Kominato and care for his mother. He says in a letter to Toki Jonin's wife in 1279: "When I, Nichiren, prayed for my mother, not only was her illness cured, but her life was prolonged by four years" (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 230). On August 15, 1267, Myoren passed away.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote "reply to Hoshina Goro Taro" on December 5, 1267, when he was forty-six years old. From this single extant Gosho addressed to him, we can surmise that Hoshina may have previously been a follower of the Shingon sect but had maintained pure faith after converting to the Daishonin's Buddhism. In this letter, the Daishonin repudiates the Nembutsu and Shingon sects, briefly stating the arguments that underlay his later remonstrations with government officials and priests of major temples. First, he points out that there are distinctions of relative superiority to be made among all the Buddhist scriptures, such as Hinayana and Mahayana or provisional and true teachings. Of all the various sutras, the Lotus Sutra is supreme, yet the priests of the Nembutsu and Shingon sects are confused as to the proper criteria of comparison and therefore slander the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin criticizes their views on the basis of what is written in the sutras themselves, asserting that the scriptural texts, not personal opinion, form the only valid basis for judgment. In particular, he censures the practices of the Shingon priests that aim only at obtaining shallow, worldly benefits. He concludes that one should acknowledge as supreme that sutra which enables all people to attain Buddhahood without distinction.

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