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The Royal Palace


This letter was written on April 12,1275, in reply to a report from Shijo Kingo that fires had broken out in both Gokuraku-ji temple and the palace of the shogun or military ruler. The original of this Gosho has been lost and only copies remain. Therefore there is some slight ambiguity about the year of its writing, and some feel it may have been written in 1276 rather than 1275.

Japan at that time was in a state of upheaval. in October 1274, the Mongols launched a massive military attack against the southern part of the country, though the invasion attempt was thwarted by an unseasonable storm. In addition, big fires and sporadic riots were breaking out in Kamakura. All these factors contributed to the extreme anxiety of the people. The Mongol threat remained as another envoy from Khubilai Khan arrived in April 1275, demanding that Japan swear allegiance to the Mongol Empire or face another attack.

In the first part of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin attributes the fires in Kamakura and other calamities to the people's loss of good fortune caused by slander, or distortion of the Buddhist teachings. The title of this Gosho is taken from the ancient story of Rajagriha (Royal Palace) which the Daishonin cites to support his point. This story appears in T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Mongu.

In a play on words, the Daishonin refers to the chief priest of Gokuraku-ji, RyAan-M (Priest Ryokan), as Ryoka-bo (Priest Double-fire) to show that the burning of Gokuraku-ii and the shogun's palace stemmed from the slander in Ryakan's mind. This phrase "double-fire" has two meanings. First it indicates the fire which consumed both Gokuraku-ji and the palace -the centers of religion and government. It also means that Ryokan's slander not only brought about conflagration-one of the seven disasters-in this world, but will also cause him and his followers to fall into "fire," or the state of Hell, in the next.

in the next part of the Gosho, speaking in terms that Shijo Kingo as a samurai could easily understand, the Daishonin suggests to him how to encourage his wife, Nichigen-nyo. He explains that it is not enough simply to believe in the Lotus Sutra; one must also discard erroneous practices. Moreover, one should practice not only for one's own sake but also for others'. The Daishonin then discusses the true meaning of loyalty. The last paragraph indicates that he possesses the Buddha's three virtues as the sovereign, teacher and parent of all people, beciuse he makes it possible for them to rid their lives of the fundamental causes of unhappiness.

Shijo Kingo, the recipient of this letter, was a samurai and follower of Nichiren Daishonin. He served the Ema family, a branch of the Haja clan. He was 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 teachings around 1256, at about the same time as the Ikegami brothers and Kuda Yoshitaka. In 1271 when the Tatsunokuchi Persecution occurred and the Daishonin was about to be beheaded, Kingo accompanied him to the execution site, having resolved to die by his side. After the Daishonin was exiled to Sado Island, Shijo Kingo sent a messenger to him with various offerings. Tlrough this messenger, the Daishonin entrusted Kingo with his treatise, "The Opening of the Eyes," one of his most important writings revealing his enlightenment. Shijo Kingo himself made the journey to Sado to visit the Daishonin twice.

Kingo also tried to introduce the Daishonin's teachings to his lord who was then a follower of Ryokan. Lord Ema deeply disapproved of Kingo's belief, and jealous colleagues seized the opportunity to make false accusations to Lord Ema against him. Ema ordered him either to transfer to a remote province or renounce his faith. In the meantime, however, an epidemic struck Kamakura and Lord Ema fell ill. Eventually he had no choice but to ask Kingo for help. He recovered under Kingo's treatment and thereafter placed renewed trust in him. Later, Kingo received from him an estate three times larger than his former one. When the Daishonin became ill in his later years, Shijo Kingo attended him until the last moment. This letter was written when Kingo's personal difficulties with his lord and fellow samurai were just beginning.

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