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The Story of Ohashi no Taro


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Mount Minobu on the twenty-fourth day of the intercalary third month of 1276. Its recipient, Nanjo Tokimitsu, lived in Ueno Village in Suruga Province and had been the Daishonin's follower since childhood. His father, Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro had died in 1265, when Tokimitsu, the second son, was seven years old and his younger brother, Shichiro Goro, was still unborn. The death of his father and, later, of his elder brother, forced Tokimitsu to assume the duties of steward of Ueno while still in his teens. He was about eighteen years old when he received this Gosho from the Daishonin.

In the seventh month of 1274, immediately after the Daishonin had retired to the recesses of Minobu, Tokimitsu went to visit him. This was probably their first meeting since the time of Tokimitsu's father's funeral. Inspired by the reunion, Tokimitsu devoted himself to faith with renewed earnestness. In the first month of 1275, Nikko Shonin visited the grave of the late Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro on the Daishonin's behalf; from that time, Tokimitsu looked up to Nikko Shonin as his personal teacher and aided him in propagating the Daishonin's teachings. During the Atsuhara Persecution, which lasted for three years beginning in 1278, he used his influence to protect other believers, sheltering some in his own home and negotiating for the release of others who had been imprisoned. Nichiren Daishonin honored him for his courage by calling him "Ueno the Worthy," though he was only about twenty at the time.

There are about thirty extant Gosho addressed to Nanjo Tokimitsu, no less than eleven of them written during the two-year period between the Daishonin's retirement to Minobu and the date of the present Gosho. After the Daishonin's death, when Nikko Shonin was forced to leave Minobu, Tokimitsu donated to him a tract of land called Oishigahara, on which Taiseki-ji, the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu, now stands.

In the beginning of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin praises the sincerity of Tokimitsu's faith, expressed in his offerings of a summer robe, salt and oil. Such earnestness on young Tokimitsu's part, he says, ultimately reflects his father's deep faith in the Lotus Sutra, and would surely please the late Lord Nanjo very much.

Next, the Daishonin recounts the tale of Ohashi no Taro and his son. According to this story, Ohashi no Taro, a general in Kyushu and a descendant of the Taira clan, for some reason incurred the wrath of the shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo and was imprisoned in a cell in Kamakura for twelve years. When his son recited the Lotus Sutra out of his ardent desire to save his father, the power of his recitation moved Yoritomo to stop the execution and pardon his father. Through this story, the Daishonin emphasizes that Tokimitsu's sincere attitude in faith constitutes the highest expression of filial devotion and will surely save his late father.

In conclusion, the Daishonin addresses the rumor of an imminent attack by the Mongols. He emphasizes that only firm faith in the Lotus Sutra will serve as protection against this threat; while he himself earnestly wishes to safeguard his followers, the crucial thing is whether or not they can develop their own faith.

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