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The Swords of Good and Evil


This letter was written to Hojo Yagenta in Kamakura on February 21, 1274, from Ichinosawa on Sado Island. A letter of pardon had already been issued on the fourteenth of that month, but it did not reach Nichiren Daishonin until March 8.

Hojo Yagenta belonged to the Hojo clan, the actual rulers of the time. In 1268 a delegate from the Mongol Empire arrived in Japan with a manifesto from Khubilai Khan demanding that Japan surrender. Yagenta received one of the eleven letters written by the Daishonin, remonstrating with the government for its support of misleading faiths.

The opening paragraph makes clear the Daishonin's total commitment to the saving of his fellow men. Any personal risks are willingly taken. Such is the degree of his compassion. In thanking Yagenta for the gift of two swords, he points out that when an individual offers something he prizes to the Buddha, the value of that gift is greatly enhanced. To a samurai, the sword represented the embodiment of his status and strength. Yagenta's gift was obviously a costly one, but the Daishonin explains the change in purpose effected by his offering. Swords are symbols of power and death, but are transformed to good purposes when given as a token of sincere faith. Yagenta's act amounted to a demonstration of faith and devotion. Some years later he entered the priesthood.

By comparing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to a stout staff, "The Swords of Good and Evil" is indicating that all things are temporary, and that only the supreme law -- the eternal life force of the original Buddha -- remains unchanged. It is the sole thing upon which man can depend. The needs of the people differ greatly, but the Gohonzon satisfies all those needs.

The legends concerning Awa presented toward the end of this letter allude to Nichiren Daishonin's identity as the original Buddha.

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