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A Warning against Begrudging One's Fief


Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Mount Minobu in July 1277, when he was fifty-six years old, to Shijo Kingo, one of his most devout followers, in Kamakura. Shijo Kingo's full name and title were Shijo Nakatsukasa Saburo Zaemon-no-jo Yorimoto, Kingo being an equivalent on the title Saemon-no-jo or Zaemon-no-jo. He served the Ema family, a branch of the ruling Hojo clan, and was well versed in both medicine and the martial arts.

As the Daishonin's lay followers became more active in propagation, they encountered various difficulties and persecutions of their own. Around 1274, after the Daishonin returned from exile on Sado Island and retired to Mount Minobu, Shijo Kingo tried to introduce the Daishonin's teachings to his lord, Ema Chikatoki, a follower of the priest Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple. Lord Ema did not take kindly to his retainer's belief in the Lotus Sutra and harassed him in various ways. At one point, spurred on by slanderous reports from Kingo's fellow samurai, Lord Ema threatened to reduce his fief and even to transfer him to the remote province of Echigo if he did not renounce his faith.

In June 1277, Shijo Kingo happened to attend a religious debate at Kuwagayatsu in Kamakura in which Sammi-bo, a disciple of the Daishonin, defeated the priest Ryuzo-bo, a protege of Ryokan. Other retainers of Lord Ema, jealous of Kingo, saw in this turn of events a chance to do him injury, and reported falsely to the lord that he had forcibly disrupted the debate. This aroused Lord Ema's ire and he threatened to confiscate Kingo's fief.

At this juncture, Nichiren Daishonin wrote a petition to Lord Ema on the samurai's behalf and sent it to Shijo Kingo to be submitted at a favorable opportunity. This was the "Letter of Petition from Yorimoto." Not long after, Lord Ema fell ill. Eventually, he had no choice but to ask Kingo for help. He recovered under Kingo's treatment and thereafter placed renewed trust in him. Later, Shijo Kingo received from him an estate three times larger than his former one.

When Shijo Kingo received an official letter from Lord Ema after the Kuwagayatsu Debate ordering him to write an oath forsaking his faith in the Lotus Sutra, he sent the letter to the Daishonin at Minobu, along with a letter of his own in which he pledged never to write such an oath. This Gosho, "A Warning against Begrudging One's Fief," was the Daishonin's reply. Although brief, it is filled with guidance and encouragement to Shijo Kingo in the midst of his adversity. At the beginning of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin praises Kingo's firm resolve in vowing to continue his faith, despite his lord's threats. Stating, "Even if you should become the most wretched of beggars, never disgrace the Lotus Sutra," he defines a basic attitude in faith: No matter what one's social position may be or what adversity one may face, it is vital to continue in faith, never losing one's integrity as a votary of the Lotus Sutra.

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