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The Workings of Bonten and Taishaku


This Gosho was written to Nanjo Tokimitsu, who was also known as Lord Ueno, on May 15, 1277, in reply to his offerings. Nanjo Tokimitsu lived in Ueno Village in Suruga Province. He embraced Nichiren Daishonin's teachings quite early in life and revered Nikko Shonin, the Daishonin's immediate successor, as his personal teacher. The deaths of his father and elder brother forced him to assume the duties of steward of Ueno while still in his teens.

Especially during the Atsuhara Persecution in 1279, Nanjo Tokimitsu used his influence to protect other believers, sheltering some in his own home and negotiating for the release of others who had been imprisoned. Nichiren Daishonin honored him for his courage by calling him "Ueno the Wise," though he was only about twenty at the time. in retaliation for Tokimitsu's support of the Daishonin, the government levied such exorbitant taxes upon him that he could afford neither to keep a horse nor to provide clothes for his wife and children.

In spite of this situation, he and his wife Myoren remained faithful to the Daishonin and consistently made offerings to. him, even while struggling to raise their many children. They eventually had nine sons and four daughters. There are some three dozen extant Gosho addressed to Nanjo Tokimitsu. When Nikko Shonin left Minobu in 1289, Tokimitsu donated to him the tract of land called Oishigahara on which Taiseki-ji, the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu, now stands.

This letter is a compassionate warning to Nanjo Tokimitsu, who was constantly surrounded by seeming friends who, ostensibly for his own good, tried to dissuade him from continuing his faith. By citing events in ancient India, Nichiren Daishonin teaches that the supreme good of preaching and propagating the Lotus Sutra incurs great opposition. He strongly enjoins Tokimitsu to persevere in the face of all obstacles, whether enticements or threats. The Daishonin tells him to remain firm in faith, in the same spirit as Bodhisattva Yakuo who made an offering of his body in his aspiration for enlightenment.

This writing comprises four main sections. First, Nichiren Daishonin acknowledges Tokimitsu's letter and thanks him for his offerings. Then he cites an incident from the Chinese tradition to show that the wise often encounter hostility, and recounts the obstacles that Shakyamuni faced in preaching the Lotus Sutra. Thirdly, he stresses that the votary of the Lotus Sutra will face persecution. Finally, he warns Tokimitsu to guard against those who, on the pretext of concern for his welfare, will try to talk him into abandoning his faith.

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