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The Treatment of Illness and the Points of Difference between Mahayana and Hinayana and Provisional and True Teachings


On June 26, 1278 (some sources say 1282), when he was fifty-seven, Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter from Mount Minobu to Toki Jonin in Shimosa Province. Reliable documents concerning Toki are scarce. He served as a majordomo to Lord Chiba, the constable of Shimosa, but he is also said to have been an official of the military tribunal at Kamakura. He is believed to have converted to the Daishonin's teaching when the latter went to Shimosa in 1254, and became one of his most steadfast followers, along with Ota Jomyo and Soya Kyoshin, who lived in the same area. He was a man of considerable erudition, and the Daishonin entrusted him with a number of important works, including "The True Object of Worship."

In June 1278, when Toki Jonin heard that Shijo Kingo was going to Mount Minobu, he entrusted him with a summer robe and other offerings for the Daishonin. At the same time, Toki Jonin informed the Daishonin of the epidemics raging in Kamakura and asked for his advice. The Daishonin wrote this letter in reply. Its full title is "The Treatment of Illness and the Points of Difference between Mahayana and Hinayana and Provisional and True Teachings."

In the beginning of the letter, the Daishonin refers to two kinds of illnesses, physical and mental, and explains that illnesses of the body can be cured by sufficiently skilled physicians but that illnesses of the mind cannot necessarily be cured by even the most proficient of doctors. He concludes that the only fundamental solution can be found in Buddhism.

Next, he mentions the differences between Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism, between provisional Mahayana and the Lotus Sutra, and between the two kinds of teaching contained within the Lotus Sutra - the theoretical and the essential. He explains that in the Latter Day of the Law, neither Hinayana, provisional Mahayana nor the theoretical teaching is of any benefit. He further says that the three calamities and seven disasters -currently besetting Japan are far more serious in the past. He concludes that this is because of slander directed against the votary of the Lotus Sutra, and that only by embracing the correct teaching can Japan avert disaster.

The concluding portion touches on the difference between T'ien-t'ai's practice of theoretical ichinen sanzen and the Daishonin's practice of actual ichinen sanzen. The Daishonin writes that because the latter is superior, he and his followers must confront greater obstacles than those T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo had to face.

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