received the white quilted robe and the ten ryo of
cotton that you were kind enough to send. The year is drawing
to a close, and here in the mountains where I live, the wind
blows fiercely and my little dwelling is as full of holes
as a wicker basket. I have the leaves of plants for my floor
covering and wear clothes made of paper,1
so that my body becomes as cold as a stone, and the things
I have to eat are like ice. When I received the quilted robe,
I thought that I would put it on immediately and get warm,
but you had written that it was for New Years Day of
the coming year. I wonder if even the Venerable Mahakashyapa,
who retired to Mount Kukkutapada to await the coming of the
Honored One of Compassion2
5,670 million years in the future, could feel as impatient
as I do.
enough of that. Shiiji Shiro told me that you have been discussing
the Buddhist teachings in the presence of your lord, which
delights me no end. In reward, I will write to you now about
a very important doctrine.
people, both the wise and the ignorant, will tell you that
Great Bodhisattva Hachiman is a manifestation of Amida Buddha,
and this claim is not without reason. In the documents of
middle antiquity3 and
in oracles from Hachiman himself, there have been a few instances
when he was identified with Amida Buddha. This has come about
because people have each at heart become Nembutsu believers,
so that they are like someone who mistakes a red stone for
a lump of gold or who sees a stump in the field and thinks
it is a hare.4
truth is that Hachiman is a manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha.
I say this because in the province of Osumi there is an inscription
on a stone to that effect.5
That stone is now broken into two. On one part are written
the two characters that comprise the name Hachiman. The other
part bears this inscription: "Long ago on Eagle Peak
he preached the Lotus Sutra. Now he has manifested himself
as the Great Bodhisattva and resides in the main shrine."
This is the first proof that Hachiman is Shakyamuni Buddha.
there is even more definite proof Great Bodhisattva Hachimans
father was Emperor Chuai, the fourteenth human sovereign of
Japan, and his mother was Empress Jingu, the fifteenth sovereign.
[Their son,] Emperor Ojin, the sixteenth sovereign, was the
one now known as Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.
father, Emperor Chuai, being commanded by the Sun Goddess,
was about to cross the ocean to attack the kingdom of Silla
[on the Korean Peninsula]. But the king of Silla put a curse
on him, and as a result Emperor Chuai passed away at Hakata.6
At that time his consort, Empress Jingu, was already pregnant
with the prince. But in order to avenge the late emperor,
she amassed a force of several tens of thousands of horsemen
and crossed the sea to the kingdom of Silla.
the ship was still on the waves, she could feel that the hour
had come for her child to be born. At that time Empress Jingu
addressed the babe in her womb, saying, "Are you a prince,
or are you a girl child? If you are a prince, then listen
well to what I say. I am crossing over to the land of Silla
in order to attack the enemy of your father, Emperor Chuai.
Since I am only a woman, I want you to act as my commander
in chief. If you are destined to be the sovereign of Japan,
then you must not be born just now, but must remain in my
womb during the time of battle and from there serve as commander
in chief to my tens of thousands of horsemen and carry out
the attack on your fathers enemy. But if you do not
heed my words and instead insist upon being born at once,
then I will cast you into the sea. You must not bear a grudge
child accordingly remained in the womb as before. At that
time the empress donned a belt made of stones in order to
chill her womb and proceeded on her way to Silla where she
subjugated the kingdom. When she returned to Japan, she went
to the Usa Shrine in the province of Buzen, and there her
child was born. He had been in the womb for three years, six
months and three days, and was born on the eighth day of the
fourth month of a year with the cyclical sign kinoe-tora.
This was the child who was later to be known as Emperor Ojin.
At the age of eighty, he passed away on the fifteenth day
of the second month of a year with the sign mizunoe-saru.
He is the chief god of Mount Otoko, a guardian deity to the
dynasty that rules our country. His enshrined form is not
particularly unusual, but he is nevertheless revered for his
mysterious powers. He is the deity now known as Great Bodhisattva
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in the kalpa of continuance in
the ninth period of decrease, when the human life span measured
a hundred years. His father was King Shuddhodana and his mother,
Lady Maya. He was born in the state of Kapilavastu in central
India, in a place called the Lumbini Gardens, on the eighth
day of the fourth month of a year with the sign kinoe-tora.
After living for eighty years, he passed away on the banks
of the Ajitavati River at Kushinagara in eastern India on
the fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign
mizunoe-saru. It was the same with the present Great
Bodhisattva Hachiman. Though one was born in India and the
other in Japan, and though they had different fathers and
mothers, both were born on the eighth day of the fourth month
of a year with the sign kinoe-tora and died on the
fifteenth day of the second month of a year with the sign
the 2,220 and more years since the Buddha passed away, whether
in India, China, Japan or anywhere else in the entire land
of Jambudvipa, those born as sages and worthy men are all
said to have been manifestations of Shakyamuni Buddha. But
no one has ever heard of such a coincidence as the one I have
just pointed out.
addition to this strange coincidence, there is the matter
of Great Bodhisattva Hachimans vow. When he preached
the Lotus Sutra [as Shakyamuni Buddha] in India, he said,
"Honestly discarding expedient means... ,"7
and in Japan he vowed that he would make his residence on
the heads of honest persons. Nevertheless, on the fourteenth
day of last month, the eleventh month, at the Hour of the
Rat (around 12:00 P.M.), he burned down his sacred shrine8
and ascended to the heavens. if we consider the reason, we
Will see that, though this deity had vowed to reside on the
heads of honest persons, there were no longer any honest persons
on whose heads he might reside. Being thus left without a
dwelling place, he ascended to the heavens.
the strangest thing of all in this country of Japan is the
fact that, although its people have been born in a land related
to Shakyamuni Buddha, they have discarded this Buddha, and
all, every one of them alike, have become followers of Amida
Buddha. They have cast aside Shakyamuni, with whom they have
a deep bond, and pay reverence to Amida Buddha, with whom
they have no connection at all.
addition, they have taken the day when Shakyamuni Buddha,
their father, passed away, and assigned it to Amida Buddha,
and taken the day when he was born, and assigned it to Yakushi
[Buddha]. And though they appear to pay reverence to Great
Bodhisattva Hachiman, they claim that his true identity is
Amida Buddha. Not only have they discarded both true identity
and manifestation,10 but
they treat as an enemy anyone who tries to point out their
error. That is no doubt the reason why this deity, Hachiman,
being powerless to correct the situation, has ascended to
moon will cast its image on water, but its reflection will
not dwell in muddy water. However, it will be mirrored even
in the drops of dew on the trees above and on the leaves of
the grass, if the dew is clear and pure. And in the same way,
Hachiman will undoubtedly take up his residence on the head
of an honest person, even though that person may not be the
ruler of the nation.
has vowed to take up residence on the heads of a hundred rulers.11
And yet he did not reside on the heads of the five rulers
of our nation, namely, the eighty-first sovereign, Emperor
Antoku; the eighty-second sovereign, the Retired Emperor of
Oki;12 the eighty-third
sovereign, the Retired Emperor of Awa; the eighty-fourth sovereign,
the Retired Emperor of Sado; and the eighty-fifth sovereign,
the Emperor of Higashi Ichijo. He declined to do so because
they had the heads of men who are fawning and crooked. Instead,
he took up residence on the heads of Yoritomo and Yoshitoki,
though these men were mere servants of the throne. This was
no doubt because they were honest men.
considering this, we can see that because persons who put
their faith in the Lotus Sutra are following an honest doctrine,
Shakyamuni Buddha himself will protect them. How then could
it happen that Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, who is his manifestation,
would fail to protect them?
water may be pure at the outset, if it becomes muddied, the
moon will not shine in it. But even though night soil is filthy,
when it clears, the moon will not begrudge its reflection.
The muddied water may be pure in nature, yet the moon will
not shine in it. But the night soil, though impure in nature,
will reflect the moons rays if it clears.
muddy water may be likened to learned priests and eminent
scholars who keep the precepts but turn their backs on the
Lotus Sutra. The night soil may be likened to ignorant people
without precepts whose greed is profound and whose anger is
intense, but who put undivided faith in the Lotus Sutra alone.
scripture known as the Nirvana Sutra lists the beings that
have been able to attain the way through the Lotus Sutra,
and the list includes such filthy creatures as dung beetles,
vipers and scorpions. To express the wonderful power of the
Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. says that it enables "even
such creatures as dung beetles to attain Buddhahood."13
Nirvana Sutra also refers to persons who cannot become Buddhas
even through the Lotus Sutra, defining them as icchantika,
or those of incorrigible disbelief, who appear to be like
arhats or like great bodhisattvas. They are like the muddy
water that, though originally pure, will not reflect the moonlight.
Thus Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, because he hates dishonesty,
has ascended to the heavens. But when he sees the votaries
of the Lotus Sutra, how could he begrudge shedding his light
followers should believe the truth of this matter firmly.
Great Bodhisattva Hachiman dwells with us here. Have no doubt
about it! Have no doubt about it!
my deep respect,
sixteenth day of the twelfth month
Reply to the wife
of Shijo Kingo
- This refers to a
kind of inexpensive garment made by gluing together sheets
of thick Japanese paper. It was then crumpled to make it
pliable and treated with persimmon tannin.
- Honored One of Compassion:
Bodhisattva Miroku. Some accounts view him as a historical
personage who preceded the Buddha in death. He is said to
have been reborn in the Tushita heaven and to be expounding
the Law there. It is prophesied that he will reappear in
this world 5,670 million years after Shakyamuni's
death, attain Buddhahood and save the people in Shakyamuni's
- "Middle antiquity"
here indicates the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1185)
periods. The Daishonin is probably referring to some
unspecified documents of this period. According to the Genka
shakusho (Genko Era Compilation of the Biographies of
Eminent Priests), a ninth-century priest called Gyokyo prayed
at the Usa Hachiman Shrine to see the god's original form.
Thereupon Amida Buddha and his attendants appeared in his
- Reference to a Chinese
folktale. One day, when a farmer was plowing, he saw a hare
run into a stump and break its neck. He thereupon abandoned
his plow and stood guard by the stump, hoping to catch other
hares in the same way. However, his strategy was unsuccessful,
and he was ridiculed by others. The Daishonin here slightly
alters the sense of the original story.
- This stone is said
to have stood in the precincts of the Hachiman Shrine in
Osumi Province, an area in what is now Kagoshima in the
southern part of Kyushu. The stone itself no longer exists,
but the inscription is quoted in the Nampo bunsha, a
work by the Zen monk Nampo Gensho.
- Hakata: An area
in northern Kyushu, once a center of foreign trade, international
exchange and national defense.
- Lotus Sutra, chap.
2. The sentence reads: "I ... honestly discarding
expedient means, will preach only the unsurpassed way."
- His sacred shrine:
The Kamakura Hachiman Shrine, which burned down on the fourteenth
day of the eleventh month in i28o.
- Shakyamuni Buddha
proclaims in the Lotus Sutra, "Ever since then I have
been constantly in this saha world, preaching the
Law, teaching and converting..." Thus those who live
in this world have a deep connection with Shakyamuni. Amida
Buddha and Yakushi Buddha, however, dwell in different realms
of the universe, in the pure land of Perfect Bliss and in
the Pure Emerald World in the cast, respectively.
- This expression
refers to the idea that indigenous Japanese deities were
local manifestations of Buddhas and bodhisattvas, who were
their true identity. As this concept developed, correspondences
were established identifying which deity was a manifestation
of which Buddha or bodhisattva. The phrase "discarded
both true identity and manifestation" means that, in
rejecting Shakyamuni Buddha, who is Hachiman's true identity,
people have in effect rejected Hachiman as well.
- This refers to an
oracle received from Hachiman in the reign of the fifty-first
ruler, Emperor Heizei (774-824), to the effect that he would
protect one hundred successive sovereigns of Japan.
- The "Retired
Emperor of Oki" refers to Emperor Gotoba, the "Retired
Emperor of Awa," to Emperor Tsuchimikado, the "Retired
Emperor of Sado," to Emperor Juntoku, and the "Emperor
of Higashi lchij6," to Emperor Chukyo. See P. 299,
n. 15. in a number of his writings, the Daishonin attributes
both the defeat of the Heike clan and the failure of Emperor
Gotoba and his associates in attempting to overthrow the
Kamakura regime to their reliance on the rituals of Shingon.
- This statement is
found in the Daichido ron vol. 93.
of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.