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Teaching, Practice, and Proof


After his third remonstration with the government, Nichiren Daishonin turned his efforts toward ensuring the correct transmission of his teachings to posterity. In May 12741 he left Kamakura and went to live in a small hermitage in the wilderness of Mount Minobu. There he devoted his remaining years to writing important documents, training his disciples and giving lectures on the Lotus Sutra. From this time, his disciples, centering around Nikko Shonin, took the leadership in propagation activities.

Disciples in Kamakura also continued to make great efforts to propagate the Daishonin's teachings and conduct debates. The "Cover Letter for Repaying Debts of Gratitude," dated July 21, 1276, refers to "private reports from various people that there are likely to be doctrinal debates with the other sects in the near future". It is therefore generally thought that this Gosho was written at Minobu on March 21, 1275, in preparation for a religious debate. However, another opinion holds that it was written in 1277, shortly before Sammi-bo, a learned disciple of the Daishonin, defeated in debate a Tendai priest named Ryuzo-bo at a place called Kuwagayatsu in Kamakura, an event known as the Kuwagayatsu Debate. In any event, it contains the Daishonin's reply to questions from Sammi-bo concerning his preparations for a religious debate.

In this letter, the Daishonin instructs Sammi-bo on the most important points to keep in mind during debate, giving clear and detailed answers to his various questions. He also admonishes him to be prudent about disclosing the most profound teachings of true Buddhism, because Sammi-bo had a tendency to become conceited and present himself as being learned and wise. Had Sammi-bo revealed these teachings indiscriminately, the priests of the Shingon and other sects might have avoided any debates for fear of being defeated. Thus, the Daishonin says, "Such a profound teaching may be brought forth in an official debate, but not during personal discussions."

Sammi-bo was one of the Daishonin's earliest disciples. Born in Shimosa Province, he excelled in debate and was highly esteemed among the Daishonin's followers for his great learning. However, he was inclined to seek worldly recognition, and the Daishonin found it necessary to admonish him on several occasions, for example, in the Gosho, "On Debating with Other Sects." During the Atsuhara Persecution he forsook his faith and is said to have died a tragic death. However, details are not very clear about Sammi-bo, and it has been conjectured that the recipient of this Gosho may have been different from the Sammi-bo who received "On Debating with Other Sects."

In "Teaching, Practice and Proof," Nichiren Daishonin states that Shakyamuni's teachings no longer lead to enlightenment.

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