On Prolonging Life
There are two types of illness: minor and serious. Early treatment by a skilled physician can cure even serious illnesses, not to mention minor ones. Karma also may be divided into two categories: mutable and immutable. Sincere repentance will eradicate even immutable karma, to say nothing of karma which is mutable. The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states, "This sutra is beneficial medicine for the illnesses of all mankind." These words can be found in no other sutra. All the Buddha's teachings are golden words of truth; for countless aeons, they have never contained the slightest falsehood. The Lotus Sutra is the truth of all truths taught by the Buddha, for it includes his declaration that he would now honestly discard the provisional teachings. Taho Buddha confirmed the truth of the Lotus Sutra and all other Buddhas lent their tongues in testimony. How, then, could it be false? Moreover, this sutra contains the greatest of all secrets. Many women suffer from illness, and now in the fifth five-hundred-year period or a little more than twenty-five hundred years after the Buddha's death, the Lotus Sutra is "beneficial medicine" for them also.
King Ajatashatru broke out in huge leprous sores all over his body on the fifteenth day of the second month of his fiftieth year. Not even the skills of his renowned physician Jivaka were enough to cure him. It was foretold that he would die on the seventh day of the third month and fall into the hell of incessant suffering. All the pleasures of his more than fifty years suddenly vanished, and the sufferings of an entire lifetime were gathered into three short weeks. His death was predetermined by his immutable karma. But then the Buddha taught him the Lotus Sutra once more, through the teachings that became the Nirvana Sutra. The king immediately recovered from his illness, and the heavy sins which had burdened his heart vanished like dewdrops in the sun.
More than fifteen hundred years after the Buddha passed away, there lived a man in China called Ch'en Ch'en. It was prophesied that he would die at the age of fifty, but by following the precepts of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai, he was able to prolong his life by fifteen years, and lived to be sixty-five. The Buddha taught that Bodhisattva Fukyo also transformed his immutable karma and prolonged his life through his practice of the Lotus Sutra. Ajatashatru, Ch'en Ch'en and Fukyo were men, not women, but they did prolong their lives by practicing the Lotus Sutra. Ch'en Ch'en lived before the fifth five-hundred-year period, so his change of karma was as extraordinary as rice ripening in winter or chrysanthemums blossoming in summer. Today it is as natural for a woman to change her immutable karma by practicing the Lotus Sutra as it is for rice to ripen in fall or chrysanthemums to bloom in winter.
When I, Nichiren, prayed for my mother, not only was her illness cured, but her life was prolonged by four years. Now you too have fallen ill, and as a woman, it is all the more timely for you to try believing in the Lotus Sutra and see what it will do for you. In addition, you can go to Shijo Kingo, who is not only an excellent physician but a votary of the Lotus Sutra.
Life is the most precious of all treasures. Even one extra day of life is worth more than ten million ryo of gold. The Lotus Sutra surpasses all other teachings because of the Juryo chapter. The greatest prince in the world would be of less consequence than a blade of grass if he died in childhood. If he died young, even a man whose wisdom shone as brilliantly as the sun would be less than a living dog. Hasten to accumulate the treasure of faith and quickly conquer your illness.
I should speak to you frankly, but while some people will accept advice, others feel they are not being correctly understood. It is extremely difficult to fathom another person's mind. I have experienced difficulties on many occasions. You do not readily accept advice, so I will not counsel you directly. Just pray to the Gohonzon frankly and sincerely, without help from anyone. When Shijo Kingo came to see me in the tenth month of last year, I told him how grieved I was about your illness. He replied that you were probably not overly concerned then because your illness was not yet serious, but that it would definitely become critical by the first or the second month of this year. His words saddened me deeply. Your husband also told me that he depends on you as a staff to lean on and a pillar for support. He is very worried about you. He is a man who never gives in to defeat and shows the greatest concern for his own kin.
If you are unwilling to take proper care of yourself, it will be very difficult to cure your illness. One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the universe, so first you must muster sincere faith. This is the meaning of the passage in the seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra which states that burning one's little finger as an offering to the Buddha and the Lotus Sutra is better than donating all the treasures of the universe. A single life is worth more than the universe. You still have many years ahead of you, and moreover, you have found the Lotus Sutra. If you live even one day longer, you can accumulate that much more good fortune. How precious life is!
Write down your name and age in your own handwriting and send it to me quickly, so I can pray to the gods of the sun and moon. Your son Iyo-bo is also extremely worried about you, so together we will offer the jigage to those gods.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, page 229.
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