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Persecution by Sword and Staff


This Gosho was written on April 20, 1279, when Nichiren Daishonin was fifty-eight years old. In the five years since he had come to live in the recesses of Mount Minobu, the first Mongol invasion had occurred and the second was now clearly imminent. The Daishonin was becoming widely respected for the truth of his prophecies. Owing to Nikko Shonin's sincere efforts, the propagation of his Buddhism advanced rapidly, notably in the Atsuhara area near Mount Fuji.

The year 1279 was especially significant because on October 12 Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon, fulfilling the purpose of his advent. Around the same time, farmers of Atsuhara who were believers had experienced harsh persecution by the authorities, culminating in the execution of the three brothers Jinshiro, Yagorb and ~(arokur6. The recipient of this letter, Nanjo Tokimitsu, lord of the Ueno area, had been practicing sincerely under the guidance of Nikko Shonin and, at the time of the Atsubara Persecution, risked his own safety to protect the farmers. Tokimitsu received some thirty personal letters from the Daishonin.

At the beginning of this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin reveals the profound meaning of the persecution "by sword and staff." The fact of his being struck with the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra is no mere coincidence but signifies that he is the votary of that sutra.

The fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra contains the twelfth through the fifteenth chapters. In the body of this Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin explains the significance of these chapters in terms of his own enlightenment. First the Daishonin cites the Devadatta (12th) chapter, which predicts that Devadatta will attain enlightenment because he had formed a relationship with Buddhism, albeit a negative or "reverse" one, and in which the Dragon King's daughter attained Buddhahood without changing her dragon form.

The Kanji (13th) chapter, particularly the twenty-line verse section, describes the persecutions that votaries of the Lotus Sutra will undergo in an evil latter age. The Daishonin states that only he has "read" this chapter, i.e., lived out its predictions, thus identifying himself as the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. The Yujutsu (15th) chapter relates how numerous bodhisattvas emerged from the earth. Their leader was Bodhisattva Jogyo, and it was to him that Shakyamuni specifically entrusted the mission of propagation in the Latter Day. By citing this chapter, Nichiren Daishonin identifies himself with Bodhisattva Jogyo, and indirectly, as the original Buddha.

The statements, "All Buddhas ... attain enlightenment between the hours of the Ox and the Tiger," and ". . . the place of Buddhist practice is located to the northeast," point to the Daishonin's revelation of his true identity at Tatsunokuchi. The fact that Nichiren Daishonin is the original Buddha is not, from our standpoint, a secret teaching; he calls it a secret teaching because it could not be generally understood by, nor did he widely reveal it to, the people of his time. In the concluding paragraph, Nichiren Daishonin urges Lord Nanjo to have faith in the Gohonzon and turn to the Gohonzon under all circumstances in order to lead a life without regrets.

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