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True Entity of Life
- Shoho Jisso Sho -


This gosho was written to Sairen-bo from Ichinosawa, Sado Island, on May 17, 1273. The postscript states, "Those (teachings) I have revealed to you in this letter are especially important... By all means keep these matters to yourself. Nichiren has herein committed to writing the teachings of his own enlightenment." "The True Entity of Life" thus concerns Nichiren Daishonin himself - specifically, the enlightenment and the practice of the original Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law. We can presume that Sairen-bo already knew something about the "true entity of all phenomena"; it was a fundamental concept in the Tendai school. He could not, however, thoroughly come to grips with it through T'ien-tai's theory alone, so he asked the Daishonin for an explanation. "The True Entity of Life" was the Daishonin's reply.

Though comparatively short, this document contains two important elements of the Daishonin's Buddhism. It was written a month after Nichiren Daishonin wrote "The True Object of Worship," in which he revealed the core of Buddhist practice in the Latter Day of the Law by explaining the Dai-Gohonzon, the supreme object of worship, and the way for all people to attain enlightenment. "The True Entity of Life" begins with a passage from the Hoben chapter -- the heart of the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra -- which reads, "The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature,... and their consistency from beginning to end." This means that no phenomenon is in any way different from the true entity of life, that is, Myoho-renge-kyo, and all the innumerable forms and realities, both concrete and abstract, in the great universe are the manifestations of Myoho-renge-kyo. It then reveals the essence of the Lotus Sutra - the law of Myoho-renge-kyo, and its embodiment, the Gohonzon. That is the first element - what is called ho-honzon, the object of worship in terms of the Law.

After elucidating the ultimate teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin declares that only Bodhisattva Jogyo, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, can propagate that teaching, and that the Daishonin himself carried out the mission which was entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo. In the light of his own behavior and fulfillment of predictions in the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin suggests that he himself is the incarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo. However, a deeper interpretation identifies him as the original Buddha of kuon ganjo who was to establish the Dai-Gohonzon for the salvation of all the people in the Latter Day. Thus "The True Entity of Life" also reveals nin-honzon -- explaining the object of worship in terms of the Person. This is the second element. Through both the Person and the Law, the Daishonin reveals the prime object of reverence to the people of the Latter Day, drawing together the main points he expounded in "The Opening of the Eyes" (nin-honzon) and in "The True Object of Worship" (ho-honzon).

The latter half of this letter informs Sairen-bo that those who devote themselves to propagating true Buddhism in the same spirit as the original Buddha are themselves Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The Daishonin predicts that kosen-rufu will be attained in the future, and concludes by setting down the core of Buddhist practice -- the way of faith, practice and study -- for the Latter Day on into eternity.

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