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White Horses and White Swans


This letter is dated the fourteenth day of the eighth month in 1280, when the Daishonin was fifty-nine years old. It was sent from Minobu to a female follower, known only as "the lady of Utsubusa," who lived in Utsubusa in Ihara District of Suruga Province. The Daishonin's letter is a reply to the offerings and declaration his follower sent when she requested that a memorial service be conducted on the hundredth-day anniversary of her father's passing. Judging from the fact that she sent the Daishonin ten kan of coins, a fairly large sum of money, and from the contents of her personal vow, it is quite likely that the lady of Utsubusa was a woman of some means.

At the beginning of this Gosho, the Daishonin reviews the declaration he had received from her, in which she stated that she had recited the Lotus Sutra and chanted fifty thousand daimoku for her father. The Daishonin praises her dedication and teaches that all the benefits of the Lotus Sutra are contained in the daimoku, its title. He next points out the errors of those who are attached to other sutras, stressing that these sutras are no more than "servants and retainers" of the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin assures his follower that because her father chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while still alive, he certainly attained Buddhahood during his lifetime.

He then introduces the story of King Rinda, who was a strong, healthy and capable ruler only as long as he could hear the neighing of white horses. The horses, in turn, raised their voices only when they could see white swans. For this reason, this Gosho is known by the title "White Horses and White Swans." Here the Daishonin likens the white horses to himself and their neighing to the sound of voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He tells the lady of Utsubusa that when she chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, her father will delight in his Buddhahood.

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