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A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering


This letter was written on April 28, 1261, about two weeks before Nichiren Daishonin was exiled to Izu Peninsula. Shiiji Shiro lived in the province of Suruga. Little is known about him, but from this letter it is apparent that he knew one of the Daishonin's leading disciples, Shijo Kingo.

The Daishonin was then forty years old and residing in Kamakura. One year earlier, he had submitted a letter of remonstration to the former regent Hojo Tokiyori, who, though officially retired, was politically the most powerful man in Kamakura.

Possibly having heard of a plot to exile him, the Daishonin wrote this Gosho telling his disciples to be brave, even if persecution should occur. The former half states that the votary of the Lotus Sutra is certain to appear in the Latter Day of the Law and to meet with great persecution. The Daishonin says, "The greater the hardships befalling him the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith. Doesn't a fire bum more briskly when logs are added?" The name "votary of the Lotus Sutra" can be applied only to one who has met, confronted and overcome the great hardships described in the sutra.

The latter part encourages Shiiji Shiro to have faith that the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is the "ship" that can unfailingly transport him to the distant shore of enlightenment. The Lotus Sutra is the highest of all Shakyamuni's teachings, and in the Latter Day of the Law, it corresponds to the Gohonzon.

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