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The Supreme Leader of the World


Around 1277, when this letter was written, Shijo Kingo was in great personal danger, having incurred the displeasure of his lord, Ema Chikatoki. Lord Ema's antagonism toward him dated back to the Kuwagayatsu Debate which took place in June 1277 between Nichiren Daishonin's disciple Sammi-bo and a priest called Ryuzo-bo.

Ryuzo-bo had originally lived at Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei, Me head temple of the Tendai sect, but he was expelled from the temple for allegedly eating human flesh. He fled to Kamakura, where he won the patronage of Ryokan, the chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple. In June 1277 he had a religious debate with Sammi-bo at Kuwagayatsu in Kamakura. On that occasion, he was defeated by Sammi-bo in front of his disciples. in his humiliation, he, together with Ryokan, took advantage of the presence of Shijo Kingo, a leading follower of the Daishonin, and falsely reported to Lord Ema that Kingo, with armed men, had forcibly disrupted the debate. Fellow samurai jealous of Kingo also saw in this turn of events a chance to do him injury. Ema was enraged and demanded that Kingo write an oath discarding faith in the Lotus Sutra. Kingo informed the Daishonin that he would never write such an oath, even if his fief were confiscated.

The Daishonin was delighted by Kingo's resolve, and, on June 25, wrote a petition to Lord Ema on his behalf. In this writing the Daishonin described the details of the debate between Sammi-bo and Ryuzo-bo and clarified the falsehood of the latter's accusations against Shijo Kingo. He severely criticized the actions of Ryokan and Ryuzo-bo and attempted to correct Ema's misplaced trust in these two priests. In addition, he emphasized Kingo's loyalty by defining a faithful retainer as one who remonstrates with his lord for the latter's errors. The Daishonin sent this petition to Kingo with instructions on how he should present it to his lord. This is the "petition" referred to in the last part of this letter, which was probably written not long after.

In the beginning of this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin clarifies the difference between Buddhism and government. Reward and punishment are means that a government employs to pursue its goals, while there is no such conscious manipulation in the world of Buddhism. Buddhism, based on an absolute Law, means victory or defeat-in other words, happiness or unhappiness-depending on whether one believes in it or opposes it. The Daishonin then cites historical incidents to demonstrate his point. Specifically, he describes the introduction of Buddhism to Japan and tells how the religion finally came to be accepted in spite of initial opposition. He then refers to the first introduction of Buddhism to China, the country of Confucianism and Taoism. in relating these events, he shows that those who oppose Buddhism are ultimately defeated, while those who support it emerge victorious.

In this context, the fate of the Soga clan might at first appear puzzling. Although they supported Buddhism, they were ruined in the end. The Daishonin explains that their patronage of Buddhism brought prosperity to their clan, but they grew arrogant in their newly-acquired power, departed from the spirit of Buddhism and so brought about their own downfall. With this example, the Daishonin teaches the importance of sustaining correct faith throughout life, no matter what may happen. Next, based on his thorough understanding of Shijo Kingo's personality, he advises him on how to face his present difficulties. Being anxious about the danger facing Kingo, the Daishonin urges him to act with the greatest circumspection and not be governed by his emotions.

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