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Reply to Nii-ama


This letter was written in February of 1275, the year after Nichiren Daishonin returned from Sado and retired to Mount Minobu. It was a reply to a request from Nii-ama Gozen and her husband's grandmother, O-ama GoZen, asking him to inscribe the Gohonzon for them. In contrast to O-ama (elder nun), she was called Nii-ama (younger nun).

O-ama had been the wife of Hojo Tomotoki, a younger brother of the third regent Yasutoki and the lord of Nagasa District in Awa Province where the Daishonin was born. Located in this area was Tojo Village, which later became a district itself Nii-ama is said to have been the wife of either Hojo Tomotoki's son or grandson. Both O-ama and Nii-ama were widows and lived together in Tojo. The Daishonin's family was apparently indebted to O-ama for some kindness she had extended to them. Once when Toja Kagenobu, the steward of the same area, put pressure on O-ama in an effort to bring Seich6-ji temple under his control, the Daishonin exerted himself on her behalf in order to repay his obligation and to thwart Kagenobu's attempt. The enmity which the steward aroused toward the Daishonin at that time is thought to have been one of the reasons behind the Komatsubara Persecution in 1264.

Soon after Nichiren Daishonin proclaimed the establishment of his Buddhism, O-ama became his follower. However, she was not steadfast and abandoned her faith around the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. After the Daishonin returned from his exile on Sado Island and situated himself at Minobu, she again changed her mind and asked the Daishonin to grant her a Gohonzon. He refused, knowing her faith to be unstable. He did, however, bestow a Gohonzon upon Nii-ama.

This writing consists of two major sections. In the first part, Nichiren Daishonin thanks Nii-ama for an offering of dried laver or seaweed from his birthplace. He describes the isolation of his life at Mount Minobu and the nostalgia evoked by the taste of dried laver sent from his birthplace. The second part is his answer to the request from Nii-ama and O-ama for the Gohonzon. First, he explains why the Gohonzon is so precious and respectworthy, both in terms of Buddhist history and the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. He also points out that he has braved persecutions to propagate faith in the Gohonzon, carrying out the work of Bodhisattva Jogyo, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

In conclusion, he tells Nii-ama that he will bestow the Gohonzon upon her because of her sincere faith, but that he cannot do the same for O-ama in spite of his personal feelings because her faith is still unstable.

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