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A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life


In this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin defines a sage as one who fully understands the past, present and future. Perception into the three existences of life is a distinctive characteristic of the Buddha; the term "sage," as used in this writing, thus indicates "Buddha." A Buddha's prophecy is not based on intuition, occult power or clairvoyance, but on the strict law of causality which governs life throughout eternity. It is because of his understanding of causality that a Buddha can look at the present and know both the past and future.

Nichiren Daishonin first remonstrated with the government in 1260 by submitting the "Rissho Ankoku Ron "(On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism). In this treatise he issued a warning to the ruler that the country would be plagued by rebellion at home and foreign invasion unless it ceased its support of erroneous religions. In 1272 a rebellion took place, throwing the nation into confusion. The Hojo clan was rocked by internal intrigue. Hojo Tokisuke, an elder half brother of the regent Hojo Tokimune, conspired to seize power, but his plot was discovered. Two of his accomplices were put to death on February i i, and three days later, Hojo Tokisuke was beheaded. The rebellion had been stopped before it had a chance to get started, but even the prospect of rebellion caused dire fears throughout the country. Then in October 1274, Mongol forces swept across the islands of Tsushima and Iki located between the western part of Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and attacked Kyushu, the southernmost part of Japan. In 1281, they attacked Kyushu for the second time. This foreign invasion contributed heavily to the social disruption.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this short but significant letter in 1275. He had already remonstrated with the shogunate government three times, but to no avail. In 1274 he had been pardoned from exile on Sado Island and returned to Kamakura. just as he predicted, however, the country itself was plagued internally by rebellion and externally by the formidable Mongol hordes.

Toki Jonin (Toki Goro Tanetsugu), the recipient of this letter, was an official serving the Kamakura shogunate on the military tribunal and one of the Daishonin's staunch followers. He lived in Shimosa, to the northeast of Kamakura. He became a priest but lived at home. Such priests were called nyrida. Toki took the priest's name, Jonin, and was later given another name, Nichijo, by the Daishonin. He received dozens of writings, many of which involve significant revelations, including "The True Object of Worship." Accurate data is scarce and posthumous biographies are contradictory, though it would appear from the few accurate sources now available that he was born in 1216 and died in 1299. He is believed to have converted to the Daishonin's teachings around 1253.

Defining a sage as one who knows past, present and future, Nichiren Daishonin compares the stature of wise men and Buddhas appearing in both non-Buddhist books and Buddhist sutras and arrives at the conclusion that the Buddha revealed in the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra is the foremost sage. In the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin declared himself to be the foremost sage in the entire world on the basis of his own accurate prediction. Gauging himself against the standards in the sutras, he drew this conclusion. He concluded that enmity toward him caused the protective gods to enjoin a neighboring country to attack Japan and that the workings of these gods should be attributed to the supreme power of the Mystic Law.

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