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Reply to Takahashi Nyudo


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in 1275 at Mount Minobu to his follower Takahashi Rokuro Hyoe Nyudo, who lived in Kajima in Fuji District of Suruga Province. Takahashi Nyudo's wife was Nikko Shonin's aunt, and he had been converted to the Daishonin's teaching through this connection. He appears to have been a leading figure among the lay believers in the Fuji area. "On Itai Doshin," another Gosho written to Takahashi, mentions that he had served the Lotus Sutra with devotion for many years (Major Writings, vol. 1, p. 154). Nevertheless, as can be seen from this letter, the Daishonin had for a time evidently felt constrained to avoid communication with Takahashi and other followers in the same area, for fear of placing them in jeopardy. It is possible that he wrote this letter in response to news of Takahashi's illness, mentioned in the concluding paragraphs.

The first part of the Gosho declares that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, represents the very heart of Shakyamuni Buddha's lifetime teachings and is the only medicine that can cure the grave ills of people living in the Latter Day of the Law. Therefore, Shakyamuni specifically entrusted the daimoku to Bodhisattva Jogyo, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, to be propagated at this time. However, at the time of Bodhisattva Jogyo's advent, anyone who propagates Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will be hated by priests, nuns, laymen and laywomen, and meet with opposition from the religious and secular authorities. And because all the people will join in persecuting the votary of the Lotus Sutra, earthquakes and other disasters will occur, including revolt within the domain and foreign invasion from without. The fact that all this has actually occurred, the Daishonin says, just as the sutras predict, demonstrates that he is in fact the votary of the Lotus Sutra.

In his account of the moral dilemma he faced in deciding whether or not he should speak out, as well as his explanation for why he has thus far failed to contact Takahashi, we can sense the very real and ever-present danger facing Nichiren Daishonin and his followers. These passages convey the Daishonin's readiness to give his own life if necessary for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, as well as his abiding concern and affection for his disciples and his desire to spare them hardships insofar as possible.

The latter part of the Gosho contains a harsh indictment of the Shingon sect, which the Daishonin felt represented a serious distortion of the Buddhist teachings. Realizing that Takahashi would not readily grasp a doctrinal explanation of its errors, the Daishonin suggests that he consider its obvious impact on the course of recent history. He refers to the Jokyo Disturbance of 1221, in which the Retired Emperor Gotoba rallied support in an attempt to overthrow the recently established military government in Kamakura. He points out that the emperor was descended from the Sun Goddess and held the throne by divine mandate, while Hojo Yoshitoki, the Kamakura regent, was a mere samurai upstart; thus it seemed inconceivable to people that the imperial forces could fail to win. Nevertheless, Gotoba was defeated and exiled to the island of Oki. This happened, the Daishonin says, because he placed his trust in the prayers and rituals of the essentially flawed Shingon teaching. At the time this letter was written, the military leaders in Kamakura, like their imperial predecessors, were soliciting the prayers of the Shingon priests in an attempt to avert the impending Mongol invasion -- a course that the Daishonin warns can only end in disaster.

In the final section of the Gosho, he expresses his gratitude for Takahashi's sympathy and support, and urges him to maintain strong faith so that he may recover from his illness.

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