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The Gift of Rice
- Hakumai Ippyo Gosho -


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter after receiving a gift of provisions during his stay in the recesses of Mount Minobu. He was in dire need of food, clothing and other necessities. The original copy of this letter is preserved at the head temple, Taiseki-ji, but little is known about its background. Neither the date nor the name of its recipient are indicated.

In the religious world of the time, offerings to priests were virtually expected and taken for granted, and there was no fixed custom of replying to each gift. The Daishonin, however, as seen in many of his letters, invariably responded to his believers, praising them for their sincerity and using the opportunity to give them valuable encouragement in faith.

In this Gosho, material things are shown to have true value according to whether or not they support life. Treasures such as money, fame or power are sought after, but in the final analysis it is food that is absolutely indispensable to human survival. Therefore, as the Daishonin states, "Rice is not merely rice but life itself." Man clings tenaciously to whatever he has, yet the strongest desire is to cling to life. Attachments can give rise to suffering whenever the thing desired is lost. By practicing true Buddhism, people can sever mistaken attachments and liberate themselves from the lower states of life -- Hell, Hunger, Animality, and Anger -- and go on to attain enlightenment.

Hinayana Buddhism taught that desires and attachments were the primary causes of human suffering, and that by extinguishing them one could enter nirvana. By contrast, Mahayana Buddhism awakens people to the supreme reality of life and shows them that through their devotion to that reality they can elevate their desires, purify their lives and eventually rise to the highest human condition - enlightenment.

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