Gosho IndexBack to the Index Back to the Gosho

Reply to Lord Hakiri Saburo


The Tatsunokuchi persecution of 1271 and subsequent exile to Sado Island were the greatest of Nichiren Daishonin's ordeals. His life on the forbidding island was one of unremitting hardship: he lacked adequate food and clothing, and the hostility of local Nembutsu priests and their followers posed a constant danger. In addition to his personal sufferings, the Daishonin was troubled by the news that many of his followers in Kamakura had begun to doubt his teachings after seeing him persecuted and had in some cases abandoned their faith. Under these circumstances he wrote a number of letters encouraging his disciples to persevere.

This particular Gosho was written on the third day of the eighth month, 1273, when the Daishonin was fifty-two years old, in response to the doubts of Hakiri Sanenaga (or Sanenaga's son, according to another opinion). Hakiri Sanenaga was the steward of the Minobu area in the southern part of Kai Province, an area which included the three villages of Hakiri, Mimaki and Iino. He was also called Hakiri Saburo, Hakiri Rokuro Sanenaga or Nambu Rokuro Sanenaga. Formerly a believer of the Pure Land sect, he had been converted by Nikko Shonin, who later became the Daishonin's successor. When the Daishonin resolved to leave Kamakura in 1274, Hakiri eagerly welcomed him to Minobu. After the Daishonin's death, he served Nikko Shonin for a time. However, under the influence of the too-lenient Niko, then the chief instructor of priests, Hakiri eventually strayed from the orthodoxy of the Daishonin's teachings. He commissioned an image of Shakyamuni Buddha, made pilgrimages to Shinto shrines, erected a Nembutsu monument in Fukushi, and donated a temple to the Pure Land sect. These actions prompted Nikko Shonin to leave Minobu, feeling that he could no longer protect the purity of the Daishonin's teachings in that place.

In the opening part of this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin first addresses a question raised in an earlier letter from Hakiri: "...the Lotus Sutra promises that those who practice the Law of the Buddha 'will enjoy peace and security in this life and good circumstances in the next.' If this is so, then why is it that the priest Nichiren, though he calls himself a votary of the Lotus Sutra, should meet with so many difficulties?" Hakiri was by no means the only one to entertain this doubt; a number of the Daishonin's disciples had been badly shaken by the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and Sado Exile. In reply, the Daishonin quotes passages from the Lotus and Nirvana sutras that predict how difficult it will be to propagate the True Law, and gives historical examples of people who met with persecution for the sake of Buddhism. The Buddha himself foretold that the votaries of the Lotus Sutra are bound to encounter opposition and hostility; far from being grounds for doubt, the Daishonin's trials serve to demonstrate that he is in fact the votary of the sutra in the Latter Day of the Law.

However, the Daishonin continues, if people persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then various disasters and calamities will arise without fail, as described in the Ninno and Saisho-o sutras. In this sense, his banishment is a portent of the nation's downfall, a disaster that he had predicted earlier in the "Rissho Ankoku Ron" (On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism). He then briefly reviews the sequence of propagation of the Buddhist teachings in the Former, Middle, and Latter Days of the Law, and declares that the time has come for Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the supreme Law hidden in the depths of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra, to spread throughout the world. Lastly, the Daishonin says that Hakiri's perseverance in faith indicates that he has a deep bond with Buddhism. Although a samurai and therefore involved in the business of killing, he can surely attain Buddhahood through faith in the Mystic Law.

BuddhismLotus SutraGosho IndexGohonzon IndexSite Search

Designed by Will Kallander