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The One-eyed Turtle and the Floating Sandalwood Log


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu on March 26, 1279, to the wife of Matsuno Rokuro Zaemon Nyudo, who lived at Matsuno, in Ihara District of Suruga Province. Their daughter had married Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, the father of Nanjo Tokimitsu, and they are thought to have been converted to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism through their relationship with the Nanjo family. Nichiji, one of the Daishonin's six senior priest-disciples, was one of their sons. Matsuno Rokuro Zaemon died in 12,78, the year before this letter was written.

At that time, disasters were frequent, and, in particular, the famine which persisted through the autumn and winter Of 1278 created untold misery. Despite this hardship, Lady Matsuno frequently made offerings to the Daishonin. She appears to have done so even though she had not met him personally, and she continued to serve him in this way after her husband's passing. In praise of her sincere faith the Daishonin says, "Could it be that Shakyamuni Buddha has entered your body, or is this the expression of your virtue accumulated in the past?"

In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin first cites a passage from the Anrakugyo (fourteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra which states how difficult it is to encounter the Lotus Sutra. Then he relates the story of the one-eyed turtle mentioned briefly in the Myoshogonno (twenty-seventh) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin elaborates on it, explaining in detail the difficulty of a one-eyed turtle finding a floating piece of sandalwood with a hollow in it the right size to hold him. Through this story, he shows how rare it is to meet the Lotus Sutra, and even more so to encounter the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo which is the sutra's essence.

Subsequently the Daishonin traces the introduction of the Lotus Sutra from India to China, and then to Japan. Although many people in Japan claim to embrace the Lotus Sutra, he says, "None of them ever chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ... nor do any of them urge others to chant it." Thus, although people think that they believe in the Lotus Sutra, they do not embrace it correctly. In this portion of the Gosho, the Daishonin indicates that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the highest teaching ever to spread in the three countries of India, China and Japan.

The final part of this letter refers to the Daishonin's tenacious struggle during the more than twenty years after he first proclaimed the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He himself personally underwent all the persecutions which the Lotus Sutra says its votary in the Latter Day will face. Most people of his time made no attempt to understand his teachings and harassed him in various ways. However, this opposition served to strengthen his conviction that he was indeed the votary of the Lotus Sutra whose activities are predicted in the Kanji (thirteenth) chapter of the sutra. He states, "Therefore, tears spring to my eyes and joy fills my body." This letter concludes with praise for Lady Matsuno's sincerity in making offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra, that is, to Nichiren Daishonin himself, who is the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

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