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Letter from Sado
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Letter from Sado


This letter is addressed to Toki Jonin. It should also be shown to

Shijo Kingo, Tonotsuji Juro, Sajiki no Ama and my other disciples.

Send me the names of those killed in the battles at Kyoto and

Kamakura. Also please have those who are coming here bring me

the Geten Sho, volume two of the Hokke Mongu and volume four of

the Hokke Gengi, as well as the collected Imperial reports and

edicts.


The most dreadful things in the world are the pain of fire, the flashing

of swords and the shadow of death. Even horses and cattle fear

being killed; no wonder human beings are afraid of death. Even a

leper clings to life; no wonder a healthy person struggles to live. The

Buddha taught that offering one's little finger for the sutra is more

rewarding than covering an entire galaxy with seven kinds of jewels.

Sessen Doji offered his life, and Gyobo Bonji ripped off his own skin

to seek the truth of Buddhism. Since nothing is more precious than

life itself, those who dedicate their l ives to the Buddhist practice are

certain to attain Buddhahood. If they are prepared to offer their

lives, why should they begrudge any other treasure for the sake of

Buddhism? On the other hand, if one is loath to part with his material

possessions, how can he possibly give away his life, which is far

more valuable?


Society dictates that one should repay a great obligation to another

even at the cost of his own life. Many warriors die for their lords,

perhaps even more than one would imagine. A man will die to defend

his honor; a woman will die for a man. Fish want to survive; they

deplore their pond's shallowness and dig holes to hid in, yet tricked

by bait, they take the hook. Birds in a tree fear that they are too low

and perch in the top branches, yet bewitched by bait, they too are

caught in snares. Human beings are equally vulnerable. They give

their lives for shallow, worldly matters but rarely for the noble cause

of Buddhism. Small wonder they do not attain Buddhahood.


Buddhism should be spread by the method of either shoju or

shakubuku, depending upon the age. These are analogous to the

two worldly arts of the pen and the sword. The bodhisattvas of old

practiced the Law as befitted the times. Sessen Doji offered his own

body when told that he would be taught the Law in return. Prince

Satta gave his own flesh and blood to carry out his bodhisattva

practice. But should one sacrifice his life at a time when it is not

required? In an age when there is no paper, one should use his own

skin. In an age when there are no pens, one should use his own

bones. In an age when society accepts the True Law and honors

the percepts while denouncing those who break or ignore them, one

should strictly follow them all. In an age when Confucianism or

Taoism is used to assail Buddhism, one should risk his life to debate

with the emperor, as did the priests Tao-an, Hui-yuan and Fa-tao. In

and age when people confuse Hinayana and Mahayana, provisional

and true teachings or exoteric and esoteric doctrines, as though

unable to distinguish gems from pebbles or cows' milk from asses'

milk, one should strictly differentiate between them, following the

example of the Great Teachers T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo.


It is the nature of beasts to threaten the weak and fear the strong.

Our contemporary scholars are just like them. They despise a wise

man without power but fear the evil rulers. They are merely servile

courtiers. Only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove his

real strength. When an evil ruler in consort with heretical priests

tries to destroy true Buddhism and banish a man of wisdom, those

with the heart of a lion will surely attain Buddhahood as Nichiren did.

I say this not out of arrogance but because I am committed to true

Buddhism. An arrogant man will be overcome with fear when he

meets a strong enemy, just like the haughty ashura who shrank and

hid himself in a lotus flower blossoming in Munetchi Lake when

reproached by Taishaku. Even a word or phrase of true Buddhism

will lead one to the path of enlightenment, if it suits the times and the

capacity of the people. Even though one may study a thousand

sutras and ten thousand doctrines, he cannot attain Buddhahood,

should those teachings not fit the times and the people's capacity.


Now, twenty-six years since the battle of Hoji, the Kamakura

government is again plagued by internal strife. Rebellions have

already broken out twice on the eleventh and the seventeenth day of

the second month of this year. Neither non-Buddhists nor the

enemies of Buddhism can destroy the Buddha's True Law, but the

Buddha's disciples definitely can. As the sutra says, a parasite in

the lion's bowels will devour the lion. A man of great fortune cannot

be ruined by his enemies but only by those close to him. The current

rebellion is what the Yakushi Sutra means by "the disaster of

internal strife." The Ninno Sutra states, "When the sage departs, the

seven types of calamity will invariably arise." The Konkomyo Sutra

states, "The thirty-three heavenly gods become furious because the

king permits evil to run rampant." Although Nichiren is not a sage, he

is equal to one, for he embraces the Lotus Sutra exactly as the

Buddha taught. Furthermore, since he has long understood the ways

of the world, all the prophecies he wrote have come true without

exception. Therefore you should not doubt what he has told you

concerning your future existence.


Nichiren is the pillar, sun, moon, mirror and eyes of the ruling clan of

Kanto. On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year when I was

arrested, I boldly declared that if the country should lose Nichiren,

the seven disasters would occur without fail. Didn't this prophecy

come true just sixty and then one hundred fifty days later? And those

battles were only the first signs. What lamenting there will be when

the full effect appears People foolishly wonder why Nichiren is

persecuted by the government if he is truly a wise man. Yet it is all

just as I expected. King Ajatashatru killed his father and nearly

murdered his mother, for which he was hailed by the six royal

ministers. When Devadatta killed an arhat and shed the Buddha's

blood, Kokalika and others were delighted. Nichiren is father and

mother to the ruling clan and is like a Buddha or an arhat to this age.

The sovereign and his subjects who rejoice at his exile are truly the

most shameless of all. Those heretical priests who have been

bewailing the exposure of their errors may be overjoyed for the

moment, but eventually they will suffer no less than Nichiren and his

disciples. Their joy is like Fujiwara Yasuhira's when he killed his

brother and Minamoto Yoshitsune. The devil who shall destroy the

ruling clan has already entered the country. This is the meaning of

the passage from the Lotus Sutra which reads, " The devil enters

one's body."


The persecutions Nichiren has faced are the result of karma formed

in previous lifetimes. The Fukyo chapter states, "... after expiating

his sins," indicating that Bodhisattva Fukyo was vilified and beaten

by countless slanderers because of his past karma. So, too, it is

with Nichiren, who in this life was born poor and lowly to a chandala

family. In my heart I cherish some faith in the Lotus Sutra, but my

body, while outwardly human, is fundamentally that of an animal,

which once subsisted on fish and fowl and was conceived of the

male and female fluids. My spirit dwells in this body like the moon

reflected in a muddy pond or gold wrapped in a filthy bag. Since my

heart believes in the Lotus Sutra, I do not fear even Bonten or

Taishaku, but my body is still that of an animal. With such disparity

between my body and my mind, no wonder the foolish despise me.

Without doubt, when compared to my body, my mind shines like the

moon or gold. Who knows what slander I may have committed in the

past? I may possess the soul of Priest Shoi or the spirit of

Mahadeva. Maybe I am descended from those who contemptuously

persecuted Bodhisattva Fukyo or am among those who forgot their

original faith in the Lotus Sutra. I may even be related to the five

thousand arrogant people who would not remain to hear the sutra, or

belong to the third and lowest group of Daitsu Buddha's disciples. It

is impossible to fathom one's karma. Iron, when heated in the flames

and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Wise men and saints are

tested by abuse. My present exile is not because of any crime. It is

solely so that I may expiate in this lifetime my past heavy slanders

and be freed from the three evil paths in the next.


The Hatsunaion Sutra states, "In the coming age, there will be those

who enter the priesthood, don surplices and make a show of

studying my teachings. However, being neither diligent nor serious

about their practice, they will slander the Mahayana sutras. You

should be aware that these people are the ones who are following

the heretical religions of today." Those who read this passage

should reflect deeply on their own practice. The Buddha is saying

that those of our contemporary priests who are lazy and remiss

were disciples of the six non-Buddhist teachers in Shakyamuni's

day. The followers of Honen who call themselves the Nembutsu sect

not only turn people away from the Lotus Sutra, telling them to

"discard, close, ignore and abandon" it, but advocate chanting only

the name of Amida, a Buddha described in the provisional teachings.

The followers of Dainichi, known as the Zen sect, claim that the true

teachings of Buddhism have been transmitted apart from the sutras.

They ridicule the Lotus Sutra as nothing more than a finger pointing

to the moon or a meaningless string of words. These priests were

certainly followers of the six non-Buddhist teachers, only now they

have entered the stream of Buddhism. According to the Nirvana

Sutra, the Buddha had enabled everyone to attain enlightenment by

teaching the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Yet, alas, when he

illuminated the hundred and thirty-six hells underground, instead of

finding them empty, he saw that the slanderers of Buddhism who

were people of incorrigible disbelief were still being confined there

by the guards of hell. They proliferated until they became the people

of Japan today.


Since Nichiren himself committed slander in the past, he became a

Nembutsu priest in this lifetime, and for several years he also

laughed at those who practiced the Lotus Sutra, saying, "Not a

single person has ever attained Buddhahood through that sutra" or

"Not one person in a thousand can reach enlightenment through its

teachings." Awakening from my slanderous condition, I feel like a

drunken son, who, in his stupor, strikes his parents but thinks

nothing of it. When he returns to his senses, he regrets it bitterly but

to no avail. His offense is extremely difficult to erase. Even more so

are past slanders of the Law, which stain the depth of one's heart. A

sutra states that both the crow's blackness and the heron's

whiteness are actually the deep stains of their past karma. The

Brahmans and other non-Buddhists refused to recognize this

causality and claimed it was the work of nature, and today, when I

expose people's slanders in an effort to save them, they deny it with

every excuse possible and argue back with Honen's words about

barring the gates to the Lotus Sutra. From Nembutsu believers this

is scarcely surprising, but even the Tendai and Shingon priests

actively support them. On the sixteenth and the seventeenth day of

the first month of this year, hundreds of priests and believers from

the Nembutsu and other sects came to debate with Nichiren.

Representing the Nembutsu, Insho-bo said, "Saint Honen did not

instruct us to discard the Lotus Sutra. He simply wrote that

everyone should chant the Nembutsu, and its great blessings will

assure their ascension to the pure land. Even the Tendai priests of

Onjo-ji and Enryaku-ji temples exiled to this island praise Saint

Honen and say how excellent his teaching is. How do you dare try to

refute it?" The local priests are even more ignorant than their

counterparts in Kamakura. They are absolutely pitiful.


How terrible are the slanders Nichiren committed in his past and

present existences! Since you have been born into this evil country

and become the disciple of such a man, there is no telling what you

may have to endure. The Hatsunaion Sutra reads, "Men of devout

faith, because you committed countless sins and accumulated much

evil karma in the past, you must expect to suffer retribution for

everything you have done. You may be reviled, cursed with an ugly

appearance, be poorly clad and poorly fed, seek wealth in vain, be

born to an impoverished or heretical family, or be persecuted by

your sovereign." It further states, "It is due to the blessings obtained

by protecting the Law that one can diminish in this lifetime his

suffering and retribution." Were it not for Nichiren, these passages

from the sutra would virtually make the Buddha a liar. For none,

save Nichiren have experienced all eight sufferings described in the

sutra: (1) to be slighted; (2) to posses an ugly physical form; (3) to

lack clothing; (4) to lack food; (5) to seek wealth in vain; (6) to be

born to a poor family; (7) to be born to a heretical family; and (8) to

be persecuted by one's sovereign. One who climbs a high mountain

must eventually descend. One who slights another will in turn be

despised. One who deprecates those of handsome appearance will

be born ugly. One who robs another of food and clothing is sure to

fall into the world of hunger. One who mocks noble men or anyone

who observes the precepts will be born to a poor family. One who

slanders a family that embraces the True Law will be born to a

heretical family. One who laughs at those who cherish the precepts

will be born a commoner and meet with persecution from his

sovereign. This is the general law of cause and effect.


Nichiren's suffering, however, are not ascribable to this causal law.

In the past he despised the votaries of the Lotus Sutra and ridiculed

the sutra itself, sometimes with exaggerated praise and other times

with contempt. He has met all eight of these terrible sufferings for

such acts against the Lotus Sutra which is as magnificent as two

jewels combined, two moons shining side by side, two stars

conjoined or one Mount Hua placed atop another. Usually these

sufferings would torment a person over many lifetimes, appearing

one at a time. but Nichiren has denounced the enemies of the Lotus

Sutra so severely that all eight descended upon him at once. His

situation is like that of a peasant heavily in debt to his lord and

others. As long as he remains on the estate, they are likely to defer

his debts from one year to the next, rather than mercilessly hounding

him. But as soon as he tries to leave, everyone will rush over and

demand that he repay everything at once. Thus the sutra states, "It

is due to the blessings obtained by protecting the Law that one can

diminish...his suffering and retribution."


The Lotus Sutra reads, "There are many ignorant people who will

vilify and attack us, the votaries of the Lotus Sutra, with swords,

staves and stone... they will denounce us to the sovereign,

ministers, Brahmans and other influential men... we will be banished

again and again." Without hell's guards to torment them, slanderers

could never emerge from hell. Were it not for the authorities who

now persecute Nichiren, he could not expiate his past sin of

slandering the Law. Nichiren is like Bodhisattva Fukyo who lived in

ages past, and the people of this day are like the priests, nuns and

lay men and women who disdained and persecuted Fukyo. The

people are different, yet the cause is the same. Different people

may kill their parents, but they all fall into the same hell of incessant

suffering. Since Nichiren is making the same cause as Fukyo, he is

certain to become a Buddha equal to Shakyamuni. Moreover, those

who now persecute him are like Bhadrapala and the others who

persecuted Fukyo. They will be tortured in the depths of hell for a

thousand aeons. I therefore pity them deeply and wonder what can

be done for them. Those who at first disdained and persecuted

Fukyo later took faith in his teachings and became his followers. The

greater part of their slander was thus expiated, but even the small

part which remained caused them to suffer as terribly as one who

had killed his parents a thousand times over. The people of this age

refuse to repent at all and must therefore suffer for interminable

aeons as described in the Hiyu chapter, perhaps even for the

duration of sanzen- or gohyaku-jintengo.


There are also those who appeared to believe in Nichiren but began

doubting when they saw him persecuted. They have not only

forsaken the Lotus Sutra but actually think themselves wise enough

to instruct Nichiren. The pitiful thing is that these perverse people

must suffer in the depths of hell even longer than the Nembutsu

believers. Ashura contended that the Buddha had only eighteen

sensory functions but that he himself had nineteen. Brahmans

claimed that the Buddha offered only one way to enlightenment but

they had ninety-five. In the same way, the renegade disciples say

that although Priest Nichiren is their teacher, he is too rigid, and

they will spread the Lotus Sutra in a more flexible way. In so

asserting, they are being as ridiculous as fireflies laughing at the sun

and moon, an anthill belittling Mount Hua, small inlets despising the

boundless sea, or a magpie mocking the Chinese phoenix. Nam-

myoho-renge-kyo.


Nichiren

The twentieth day of the third month in the ninth year of Bun'ei

(1272)


There is very little writing paper here in the province of Sado, and to

write to you individually would take too long. However, if even one

person fails to hear me, it will cause resentment. Therefore, I want

all sincere believers to meet and read this letter together for

encouragement. When disaster strikes, our personal troubles seem

insignificant. I do not know how accurate the reports reaching me

are, but there must surely be intense grieving over those killed in the

recent battles. What has become of Izawa no Nyudo and Sakabe no

Nyudo? Send me news of Kawanobe, Yamashiro, Tokugyo-ji and the

others. Also, please be kind enough to send me the Essentials of

Government in the Chen-kuan Era, the Anthology of Tales, and the

Esoteric Teachings of the Eight Sects. Without these, I cannot even

write letters.

  

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