On the Buddha's Behaviour
On the eighteenth day of the first intercalary
month of the fifth year of Bun'ei (1268), an official announcement
arrived from the great Mongol Empire in which those barbarians
of the west declared their intention to attack Japan. My
prediction in the Rissho
Ankoku Ron, which I wrote in the first year of Bun'o
(1260), has been completely fulfilled. My prophecy has surpassed
even those in the yueh-fu poems of Po Chu-i or the
prophecies of Shakyamuni Buddha. Can there be anything more
wondrous in this, the Latter Day of the Law? If our land
were ruled by a wise and virtuous sovereign, the highest
honors in Japan, the title of Great Teacher, would be bestowed
upon me. I had expected to be consulted about the Mongols,
invited to the war council, and asked to defeat them through
the power of prayer. However, since that did not happen,
I sent letters of warning to eleven of our country's leaders
in the tenth month of the same year.
If there were a wise leader among us, he would
immediately think, "What a wonder! What unusual foresight!
The deities Tensho Daijin and Hachiman must be offering a
way to save Japan through this priest." In actuality,
however, government officials slandered and deceived my messengers.
They ignored or refused to reply to my letters, and even when
they did reply, they purposely neglected to report the matter
to the Regent. Their behavior was highly irregular. Even if
the letters concerned only some personal matter of mine, those
in the government should still report it to the Regent, as
is only proper for an official. However, the letters were
a warning of dire things to come that would affect the destiny
of not only the Regent's government but every other official
as well. Even if they did not heed my warning, to slander
my messengers was going too far. All Japanese, high and low,
have for a long time now shown hostility toward the Lotus
Sutra. Disaster after disaster has befallen them, and they
have become possessed by devils. The Mongols' ultimatum has
deprived them of the last remnants of sanity.
In ancient China, Emperor Chou of the Yin
dynasty refused to listen to the admonitions of his loyal
minister Pi Kan and in a rage had Pi Kan's heart cut out.
Later his dynasty was overthrown by Kings Wen and Wu of the
Chou. King Fu-ch'a of the state of Wu instead of heeding the
remonstrances of his minister Wu Tzu-hsu, forced the latter
to commit suicide. Eventually Fu-ch'a was killed by King Kou-chien
of the state of Yueh.
Thinking how tragic it would be if our country
should meet the same fate, I risked my reputation and life
to remonstrate with the authorities. But, just as a high wind
creates high waves or a powerful dragon brings forth torrential
rains, so my admonitions called forth increasing animosity.
The Regent's Supreme Council met to discuss whether to behead
me or banish me from Kamakura and whether to confiscate the
estates of my disciples and lay supporters, or to imprison,
exile or execute them.
Hearing of this, I rejoiced, saying that I
had long expected it to come to this. In the past, Sessen
Doji willingly offered his life to learn half a verse, Bodhisattva
Jotai gave everything he had, Zenzai Doji threw himself into
a fire, Gyobo Bonji tore off a piece of his own skin, and
Bodhisattva Yakuo burned his own elbow, all in order to attain
enlightenment. Bodhisattva Fukyo was beaten with sticks, Aryasinha
was beheaded, and Bodhisattva Kanadeva was killed by a Brahman,
all because of their propagation of Buddhism.
These events should be considered in terms
of the times and circumstances in which they occurred. T'ien-t'ai
declared that the practice should "accord with the times."
His disciple Chang-an interpreted this to mean, "You
should distinguish between shoju and shakubuku
and never adhere solely to one or the other." The Lotus
Sutra represents a single truth, but its practice and propagation
vary according to the people and the time.
Shakyamuni Buddha states: "After my death,
during the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law that follows
the two millennia of the Former and Middle Days, a person
will appear who will propagate the heart of the Lotus Sutra,
the five characters of the daimoku. At that time an evil king
will be in power and evil priests, more numerous than particles
of dust, will contend with one another over the various Mahayana
and Hinayana sutras. When the votary of daimoku challenges
these priests, they will incite their lay believers to abuse,
beat or imprison him, to confiscate his lands, to exile or
behead him. In spite of such persecutions, he will continue
his propagation without ceasing. Meanwhile the ruler who persecutes
him will be beset by rebellion, and his subjects will devour
each other like hungry demons. Finally the land will be attacked
by a foreign country, for the Buddhist gods Bonten and Taishaku,
the gods of the sun and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings
ordained that other countries shall assault a land that is
hostile to the Lotus Sutra."
None of you who declare yourselves to be my
disciples should ever be cowardly. Neither should you allow
concern for your parents, wives or children to hold you back,
or be worried about your property. Since the infinite past
you have thrown away your life more times than the number
of dust particles on earth in order to save your parents,
your children or your property. But you have not once given
your life for the Lotus Sutra. You may have tried to practice
its teachings to some extent, but whenever you were persecuted,
you ceased to live by the sutra. That is like boiling water
only to pour it into cold water, or like trying to strike
fire but giving up halfway. Each and every one of you should
be certain deep in your hearts that sacrificing your life
for the Lotus Sutra is like trading rocks for gold or filth
Now we are at the beginning of the Latter
Day of the Law and I, Nichiren, am the first to set out on
the worldwide propagation of Myoho-renge-kyo. These five characters
are the heart of the Lotus Sutra and the source of the enlightenment
of all Buddhas. During the more than twenty-two hundred years
that have passed since Shakyamuni entered nirvana, no
one has ever embarked on this mission, not even the greatest
of his followers, Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna,
Nan-yueh, T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo or Dengyo. My disciples, form
your ranks and follow me, and you shall surpass even Mahakashyapa
or Ananda, T'ien-t'ai or Dengyo! If you quail before the threats
of the rulers of this little island country and abandon your
faith, how will you face the even more terrible anger of Emma,
the King of Hell? You have proclaimed yourselves to be the
messengers of the Buddha. But if you falter, there will be
no one more despicable than you.
While the Regent's government could not come
to any conclusion, priests of the Jodo, Ritsu, Shingon and
other sects, who realized they could not surpass me in religious
debate, sent petitions to the government. Finding their petitions
unaccepted, they approached the wives and widows of high-ranking
officials to vilify me. The women reported the slander to
the officials, saying, "According to what some priests
told us, Nichiren declared that the deceased officials Hojo
Tokiyori and Hojo Shigetoki have fallen into the hell of incessant
suffering. He said that Kencho-ji, Jufuku-ji, Gokuraku-ji,
Choraku-ji and Daibutsu-ji temples should be burned down and
high priests such as Doryu and Ryokan beheaded. His statements
prove that he is guilty on every account, and even though
the Regent's Supreme Council has been unable to decide on
his punishment, he should be called to confirm whether or
not he made these statements." Thus, I was summoned to
At the court, the magistrate said, "You
have heard what the Regent stated. Did you or did you not
say those things?" I answered, "Every word is mine
except the statement that the late officials Hojo Tokiyori
and Hojo Shigetoki have fallen into hell. Yet I most certainly
have been exposing the heresies of the sects they followed
when they were alive.
"Everything I said was with the future
of our country in mind. If you wish to maintain this land
in peace and security, it is imperative that you summon the
priests of the other sects for a debate in your presence.
If you ignore this advice and punish me unreasonably, the
entire country will regret your decision. If you condemn me,
you will be rejecting the Buddha's envoy. Then you will have
the punishment of Bonten and Taishaku, the gods of the sun
and moon, and the Four Heavenly Kings. One hundred days after
my exile or execution, and again on the first, third and seventh
anniversary, there will occur what the sutras call 'internal
strife'--rebellions in your clan. These will be followed by
foreign invasion from all sides, especially from the west.
Then you will regret what you have done." Hearing this,
the magistrate Hei no Saemon, forgetting all the dignity of
his rank, became wild with rage like Taira no Kiyomori.
On the night of the twelfth day of the ninth
month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), I was arrested
in a manner which was extraordinary and unlawful, even more
outrageous than the arrest of Ryoken and the priest Ryoko
who had actually rebelled against the government. Hei no Saemon
led hundreds of armor-clad warriors to take me. Wearing the
headgear of a court noble, he glared in anger and spoke in
a rough voice.
These actions were no different from those
of the Prime Minister Taira no Kiyomori, who seized power
only to lead the country to destruction. I immediately recognized
the dire portent of this event and thought to myself, "I
expected something like this to happen sooner or later. How
fortunate that I can give my life for the Lotus Sutra! If
I am to lose this worthless head for Buddhahood, it will be
like trading sand for gold or rocks for jewels!"
Shofu-bo, Hei no Saemon's chief retainer,
rushed up, snatched the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra from
inside my robe, and struck me in the face with it three times.
Then he threw it on the floor. Warriors seized the nine other
scrolls of the sutra, unrolled them and trampled on them or
wound them around their bodies, scattering the scrolls all
over the matting and wooden floors until every corner of the
house was strewn with them.
I said in a loud voice, "See how insanely
Hei no Saemon is acting! You all have just toppled the pillar
of Japan!" Hearing this, the assembled troops were taken
aback. When they saw me standing before the fierce arm of
the law unafraid, they must have realized that they were in
the wrong, for the color drained from their faces.
Both on the tenth, when I was summoned, and
on this night, the twelfth, I fully described to Hei no Saemon
the heresies of the Shingon, Zen and Jodo sects, as well as
Ryokan's failure in his prayers for rain. As his warriors
listened, they would burst into laughter, and other times
they grew furious. However, I will not go into the details
Ryokan prayed for rain from the eighteenth
day of the sixth month to the fourth day of the following
month, but my power held his prayers in check. Ryokan worked
himself into a sweat, yet nothing fell save his own tears.
No rain fell in Kamakura, but on the contrary, strong gales
At this news, I sent a messenger to him three
times, saying, "If one cannot get across a river ten
feet wide, how can he cross one that is a hundred or two hundred
feet? Izumi Shikibu, an unchaste poetess, violated one of
the eightfold precepts by writing poetry, but still she caused
rain with a poem. The priest Noin was successful in bringing
rainfall with a poem although he broke the precepts. How is
it possible then that hundreds and thousands of priests, all
of whom observe the two hundred and fifty precepts, gather
to pray for rain and can do no more than cause a gale, even
after one or two weeks of prayer? It should be clear from
this that none of you will be able to attain Buddhahood."
The priest Ryokan read the message and wept in vexation, and
to others he reviled me.
When I reported what had happened with Ryokan,
Hei no Saemon attempted to defend him, but it was hopeless.
In the end he was unable to utter a word.
That night of the twelfth, I was placed under
the custody of Hojo Nobutoki, lord of the province of Musashi,
and around midnight was taken away to be executed. Entering
Wakamiya Avenue, I looked at the crowd of warriors surrounding
me and said, "I will not cause any trouble. Don't worry.
I merely wish to say my last words to Bodhisattva Hachiman."
I got down from the horse and called out, "Bodhisattva
Hachiman, are you truly a god? When Wake no Kiyomaro was about
to be beheaded, you appeared as a moon ten feet wide. When
the Great Teacher Dengyo lectured on the Lotus Sutra, you
bestowed upon him a purple surplice. I, Nichiren, am the greatest
votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan, and entirely without guilt.
I have expounded the Law to save all people from falling into
the hell of incessant suffering for opposing the Lotus Sutra.
Moreover, if the forces of the great Mongol empire attack
this country, can even the Buddhist gods Tensho Daijin and
Hachiman remain safe and unharmed? When Shakyamuni Buddha
expounded the Lotus Sutra, Taho Buddha and many other Buddhas
and bodhisattvas appeared shining like so many suns, moons,
stars and mirrors. In the presence of the countless Buddhas
and gods of India, China and Japan, the Lord Buddha urged
each Buddhist god to pledge to protect the votary of the Lotus
Sutra at all times. Each and every one of you Buddhist gods
made this pledge. I should not have to remind you. Why are
you not here to fulfill your oath now that the time has come?"
Finally I called out, "If I am executed tonight and go
to the pure land of Eagle Peak, I shall report at once to
Shakyamuni Buddha that Tensho Daijin and Hachiman have broken
their oath to him. If you feel this will go hard on you, you
had better do something about it right away!" Having
spoken, I remounted my horse.
As the party passed the shrine on Yui beach,
I spoke again. "Stop a minute, gentlemen. I have a message
for someone living near here," I said. A boy called Kumao
was sent to Shijo Kingo, who rushed to meet me. I told him,
"Tonight, I go to be beheaded. This wish I have cherished
these many years. This world has seen pheasants born only
to be caught by hawks, mice born only to be eaten by cats,
and men born to be killed attempting to avenge the murder
of their wives and children. Such things have occurred more
times than there are specks of dust on earth. But until now,
no one has ever lost his life for the sake of the Lotus Sutra.
I myself was born to become a poor priest, unable fully to
repay the debt of gratitude I owe to my parents and to my
country. Now I will present my severed head to the Lotus Sutra
and share the blessings therefrom with my parents, and with
my disciples and believers, just as I have promised you."
Then the four Shijo brothers, holding on to my horse's reins,
went with me to Tatsunokuchi at Koshigoe.
Finally we came to a place that I knew must
be the site of my execution. Indeed, the soldiers stopped
and began to mill around in excitement. Shijo Kingo, in tears,
said, "These are your last moments." I replied,
"How thoughtless you are! You should be delighted at
this great fortune. Don't you remember your promise?"
I had no sooner said this when a brilliant orb as bright as
the moon burst forth from the direction of Enoshima, shooting
across the sky from southeast to northwest. It was shortly
before dawn and still too dark to see anyone's face, but the
radiant object clearly illuminated everyone like bright moonlight.
The executioner fell on his face, his eyes blinded. The soldiers
were terrified and panic-stricken. Some ran off into the distance,
some jumped from their horses and knelt on the ground, and
others crouched down in their saddles. I called out, "Here,
why do you shrink from this miserable prisoner? Come nearer!
Come closer!" But no one would approach. "What if
the dawn should break? You must hasten to execute me, for
you will find it unbearable to do so after sunrise."
I urged them on, but they made no response.
They waited a short time, and then someone
requested that I proceed to Echi in the same province of Sagami.
I replied that since none of us knew the way, someone would
have to guide us there. No one was willing to lead the way,
but after we had waited for a while, one soldier finally said,
"That is the road you must take."
Setting off, we followed the road and by noon
reached Echi. We then proceeded to the residence of Homma
Rokurozaemon. There I ordered sake for the soldiers. When
the time came for them to leave, some bowed their heads, joined
their hands as though in prayer, and said in a most respectful
manner, "We did not realize what kind of person you are.
We hated you because we were told that you slandered Amida
Buddha, whom we worship. But now that we have seen your greatness
with our own eyes, we will discard the Nembutsu that we have
practiced for so long." Some of them even took their
Nembutsu rosaries from their tinder bags and flung them away.
Others pledged that they would never again chant the Nembutsu.
After they left, Rokurozaemon's retainers took over the guard.
Then Shijo Kingo and his brothers departed.
That evening, at the Hour of the Dog (7-9
pm), a messenger from Kamakura arrived with a decree from
the Regent. The soldiers were sure that it would be an order
to behead me. Umanojo, Homma's magistrate, came running with
the letter, knelt, and said, "We were fearful that you
would be executed tonight, but now this letter has brought
wonderful news. The messenger said that since the lord of
Musashi had left for a spa in Atami this morning at the Hour
of the Hare (5-7 am), he rode four hours to get here directly
because he feared that something might happen to you. The
messenger will leave immediately to take this message to the
lord of Atami tonight." The accompanying letter read,
"This person is not guilty. He will shortly be pardoned.
If you execute him, you will have cause to regret."
Now it was the night of the thirteenth. There
were scores of warriors stationed around my lodging and in
the main garden. Because it was almost the middle of the ninth
month, the moon was very round and full. I went out into the
night garden and there, turning toward the moon, recited the
jigage portion of the Juryo chapter. Then I
spoke briefly about the merits and faults of the various sects
and about the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. I said, "You,
the gods of the sun and moon, participated in the ceremony
of the Lotus Sutra, did you not? When the Buddha expounded
the Hoto chapter, you obeyed his order, and in the
Zokurui chapter, when the Buddha laid his hand on your
head three times, you vowed to fulfill the command to transmit
and protect the Lotus Sutra. Are you not the same god? Would
you have an opportunity to fulfill your vow if it were not
for me? Now that you see me in this situation, you should
joyfully rush forward to shield the votary of the Lotus Sutra
and thereby fulfill your vow to the Buddha. It is incredible
that you have not yet done anything. If nothing is done to
bring this country to justice, I will never return to Kamakura.
If you do not intend to do anything for me, how can you continue
to shine on complacently? How do you read the following passages
from the sutras? The Daijuku Sutra states, 'The sun
and moon do not show their brightness.' The Ninno Sutra
reads, 'Both the sun and the moon shall act discordantly.'
The Saisho-o Sutra says, 'The thirty-three heavenly
gods will be enraged.' What is your answer, moon? What is
Then, as though in answer, a large star bright
as the Morning Star fell from the sky and struck a branch
of the plum tree in front of me. The soldiers, astounded,
jumped down from the verandah, fell on their faces in the
garden, or ran behind the house. Immediately a fierce wind
started up, raging so violently that the whole island of Enoshima
seemed to roar. The sky shook, echoing with a sound like pounding
At dawn of the fourteenth day, around the
Hour of the Hare (5-7 am), a man called Juro Nyudo came and
said to me, "Last night there was a huge commotion in
the Regent's residence at the Hour of the Dog (7-9 pm). They
summoned a diviner, who said, 'The country is going to erupt
in turmoil because you punished that priest. If you do not
call him back to Kamakura, there is no telling what will befall
this land.' At that, some said, 'Let's pardon him!' Others
said, 'Since he predicted that war would break out within
a hundred days, we should wait and see what happens."
I was kept at Echi for more than twenty days.
During that period seven or eight cases of arson and an endless
succession of murders took place in Kamakura. Slanderers went
around saying that my disciples were setting the fires. Government
officials thought this might be true and made up a list of
over 260 of my followers who they believed should be expelled
from Kamakura. Word spread that those persons were all to
be exiled to remote islands and that those disciples already
in prison would be beheaded. It turned out, however, that
the fires were set by the Nembutsu and Ritsu believers to
implicate my disciples. There were other things that happened,
but they are too numerous to mention here.
I left Echi on the tenth day of the tenth
month (1271) and arrived on Sado Island on the twenty-eighth
day. On the first day of the eleventh month, I was taken to
a small hut that stood in a field called Tsukahara behind
Homma Rokurozaemon's residence in Sado. Only two meters square,
it stood on some land where corpses were abandoned, a place
like Rendaino in Kyoto. Not a single statue of the Buddha
was enshrined there and the roof and walls were full of holes.
The snow fell and piled up, never melting away. I spent my
days there, sitting in a straw cape or lying on a fur skin.
At night it hailed and snowed and there were occasional flashes
of lightening. Even in the daytime, the sun hardly shone.
It was a wretched place to live.
I felt like Li Ling in China, who was imprisoned
in a rocky cave in the land of the northern barbarians, or
the priest Fa-tao, who was branded on the forehead and exiled
to the area south of the Yangtze by Emperor Hui-tsung of the
Sung. Nevertheless, King Suzudan received severe training
under the hermit sage Ashi to obtain the blessings of the
Lotus Sutra, and even though Bodhisattva Fukyo was beaten
by the staffs of arrogant priests, he achieved honor as the
votary of the supreme vehicle. Therefore, nothing is more
joyful to me than to have been born in the Latter Day of the
Law and to suffer persecutions because I propagate the five
characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. For more than twenty-two hundred
years after the death of Shakyamuni, no one, not even T'ien-t'ai,
experienced the truth of the verse in the sutra that says:
"The people will be full of hostility, and it will be
extremely difficult to believe." Only I have fulfilled
the prophecy from the sutra, "We will be banished again
and again." The Buddha promises that one who embraces
even a single phrase or verse from the sutra will attain Buddhahood.
There can be no doubt that I will reach perfect enlightenment.
It is Regent Hojo Tokimune above all who has been of greatest
aid to me. Hei no Saemon is to me what Devadatta was to Shakyamuni.
The Nembutsu priests are comparable to Kokalika and the Ritsu
followers to Sunakshatra. Shakyamuni lives today; this is
the age of the Buddha. This is what the Lotus Sutra describes
as the true nature of life, or more precisely as consistency
from beginning to end.
The fifth volume of the Maka Shikan
states: "As practice progresses and understanding grows,
the three obstacles and four devils emerge, vying with one
another to interfere." It also states: "A wild boar
scraping a gold mountain only makes it glitter, rivers flowing
into an ocean increase its volume, fuel added to fire only
makes it burn higher, and the wind inflates the body of the
gura." If, with the mind of the Buddha, one practices
the Lotus Sutra as the Buddha taught, in the right manner
and at the right time, then these seven obstacles and devils
will confront him. The Devil of the Sixth Heaven is the most
powerful. He will possess one's sovereign, parents, wife or
children, fellow believers or evil men, and through them will
attempt in a friendly manner to divert him from his practice
of the Lotus Sutra, or will oppose him outright. The practice
of Buddhism is always accompanied by persecutions and difficulties
that become more severe as one moves to the practice of more
profound sutras. To practice the Lotus Sutra, the highest
sutra of all, will provoke particularly harsh persecutions.
To practice as the Buddha taught, and at the right time, will
incite truly agonizing ordeals.
The eighth volume of the Guketsu states,
"So long as a person does not try to depart from the
cycle of birth and death and seek enlightenment, the devil
will watch over him like a parent." Though one may practice
sincerely in the spirit of the Buddha, so long as he practices
Nembutsu, Shingon, Zen, Ritsu, or any teaching other than
the Lotus Sutra, he will have only the devil for a parent.
The devil will cause other persons to respect that man and
give him alms, and people will be deluded into believing he
is a truly enlightened priest. If he is honored by the sovereign,
for instance, the people are sure to offer him alms. Conversely,
if a priest practices the Lotus Sutra, he will be persecuted
by the sovereign and others. Official persecution is indeed
the proof that he is practicing the true teaching.
Devadatta more than anyone else proved the
validity of Shakyamuni's teaching. In this age as well, it
is not one's friends but one's enemies who assist his progress.
The Kamakura government could not have firmly established
itself as the ruler of Japan had it not been for the challenges
posed by Wada Yoshimori and the Retired Emperor Gotoba. In
this sense these men were the best allies the government could
have. For me, my best allies in the attainment of enlightenment
are Hei no Saemon and Regent Hojo Tokimune, as well as Tojo
Kagenobu and the priests Ryokan, Doryu and Doamidabutsu. I
am grateful when I think that without them I could not have
proven myself the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
In the yard around the hut the snow piled
deeper and deeper. No one came to see me; my only visitor
was the piercing wind. The Maka Shikan and the Lotus
Sutra lay open before my eyes and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo flowed
from my lips. My evenings passed in discourse to the moon
and stars on the fallacies of the other sects and the profundity
of the Lotus Sutra. One year gave way to the next.
One finds people of mean spirit wherever one
goes. The rumor reached me that the Ritsu and Nembutsu priests
on the island of Sado, including Yuiamidabutsu, Shoyu-bo,
Insho-bo and Jido-bo and hundreds of their followers, had
met to decide what to do about me. One of them is reported
to have said, "Nichiren, the notorious enemy of Amida
Buddha and deceiver of all people, has been exiled to our
province. As we all know, exiles to this island are seldom
able to survive. Even if they do, they never return home.
So no one is going to be punished for killing an exile. Nichiren
lives all alone at a place called Tsukahara. No matter how
strong and powerful he is, if there's no one around, what
can he do? Let's go together and kill him!" Another said,
"He was supposed to be beheaded, but his execution has
been postponed for a while because the Regent's wife is about
to have a child. The postponement is just temporary, though.
I hear he is eventually going to be executed." A third
said, "Let's ask Lord Homma to behead him. If he refuses,
we can plan something ourselves." There were many proposals
about what to do with me, and eventually several hundred people
gathered at the constable's office.
Homma Rokurozaemon addressed them, saying,
"An official letter has arrived from the government directing
that the priest shall not be executed. This is no ordinary,
contemptible criminal, and if anything happens to him, I will
be guilty of grave dereliction. In stead of killing him, why
don't you confront him in religious debate?" Following
this suggestion, the Nembutsu and other priests, accompanied
by apprentice priests, carrying the three Jodo sutras, the
Maka Shikan, the Shingon sutras and the literature
under their arms or hanging from their necks, gathered at
Tsukahara on the sixteenth day of the first month. They came
not only from the province of Sado but also from the nearby
provinces of Echigo, Etchu, Dewa, Mutsu and Shinano. Several
hundred priests and others gathered in the spacious yard of
the hut and in the adjacent field. Homma Rokurozaemon, his
brothers and his entire clan came, as well as lay priest farmers,
all in great numbers. The Nembutsu monks uttered streams of
abuse, the Shingon priests turned pale with rage, and the
Tendai priests vowed to vanquish the opponent. The lay believers
cried out with hatred, "There he is--the slanderer of
our Amida Buddha!" The uproar and jeering resounded like
thunder and seemed to shake the earth. I let them clamor for
a while and then said, "Silence, all of you! You are
here for a religious debate. This is no time for abuse."
At this, Homma and the others voiced their accord, and some
of them grabbed the slanderous Nembutsu priests by the neck
and pushed them back.
The priests proceeded to cite the doctrines
of Maka Shikan, Shingon and Nembutsu. I responded to
each, establishing the exact meaning of what had been said,
then coming back with questions. However, I needed to ask
only one or two at most before they were completely silenced.
You can imagine how the debate went. They were far inferior
even to the priests in Kamakura, and I overturned them as
easily as a sharp sword cutting through a melon or a gale
bending the grass. They were not only poorly versed in Buddhism
but contradicted themselves. They confused sutras with treatises
and commentaries with treatises. I discredited Nembutsu by
telling the story of how Shan-tao fell out of the willow tree.
I exposed the falsity of Shingon's claim that the scepter
Kobo had cast into the sea on his way back from China later
appeared on Mount Koya and the contention that Kobo transfigured
himself into Dainichi Buddha. As I demonstrated the falsities
of each sect, some of the priests swore, some were struck
dumb, while others turned pale. There were Nembutsu adherents
who admitted the error of their sect; some threw away their
robes and beads on the spot and pledged never to chant Nembutsu
The members of the group all began to leave,
as did Rokurozaemon and his men. As they were walking across
the yard, I called the lord back to make a prophecy. I first
asked him when he was departing for Kamakura, and he answered
that it would be around the seventh month, after his peasants
had finished cultivating the land. Then I said, "For
a warrior, cultivation means to assist his lord in times of
peril and to receive lands for his service. Fighting is about
to break out in Kamakura. You should hasten there to distinguish
yourself in battle, and then you will be rewarded with fiefs.
Since your warriors are renowned throughout the province of
Sagami, if you remain here in the countryside tending to your
farming and arrive too late for the battle, your name will
be disgraced." Without saying a word about what he thought
of this, Homma hurried away. The Nembutsu and Ritsu priests
and lay believers looked bewildered, not comprehending what
I had said.
After everyone had gone, I began to put into
shape a work in two volumes, called Kaimoku Sho, or
The Opening of the Eyes, which I had been working on
since the eleventh month of the previous year. I wanted to
record the wonder I had experienced, in case I should be beheaded.
The essential message in this work, which I entrusted to Shijo
Kingo's messenger, is that the destiny of Japan depends solely
upon me. A house without pillars collapses and a man without
a soul is dead. I am the soul of the people of Japan. Hei
no Saemon has already toppled the pillar, and the country
grows turbulent as unfounded rumors and speculation rise up
like phantoms to cause dissention in the Hojo clan. Further,
Japan is about to be attacked by a foreign country, as I described
in my Rissho Ankoku-ron. The disciples around me thought
that the letter in which I explained these ideas was too provocative,
but they could not do anything about it.
Just then a ship arrived at the island on
the eighteenth of the second month. It carried the news that
fighting had broken out in Kamakura and then in Kyoto, causing
indescribable suffering. Homma Rokurozaemon, leading his men,
left on fast ships that night for Kamakura. Before departing,
he humbly begged for my prayers.
He said, "I doubted the truth of the
words you spoke on the sixteenth day of last month, but they
have come true in less than thirty days. I see now that the
Mongols will surely attack us, and it is equally certain that
believers in Nembutsu are doomed to the hell of incessant
suffering. I will never again chant the Nembutsu."
To this I replied, "Whatever you may
do, unless Regent Hojo Tokimune embraces the true faith, the
people of Japan will not embrace it either, and in that case
our country will surely be ruined. Although I may be rather
insignificant, I propagate the Lotus Sutra and therefore am
the envoy of Shakyamuni Buddha. Tensho Daijin and Hachiman
are respected as tutelary gods of this country, but they are
only minor gods compared with Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of
the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings. It is said,
however, that to kill someone who serves those two gods is
equal to the sin of killing seven and one-half men. Taira
no Kiyomori and Emperor Gotoba perished because they did so.
Thus, persecuting me is incomparably worse than molesting
the servants of those two gods. I am the envoy of Shakyamuni
Buddha, and those gods should prostrate themselves before
me with their palms joined. As votary of the Lotus Sutra,
Bonten and Taishaku attend me on either side, and the gods
of the sun and moon illuminate my path before and behind.
One may make use of my counsel, but if I am not given due
respect as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the country
will perish. How ominous that the authorities have turned
hundreds of persons against me and have even banished me twice!
This country is surely doomed, but since I have asked the
Buddhist gods to withhold their punishment on our land, it
has survived until now. However, that punishment will surely
descend if these unreasonable actions continue. And if my
counsel is not heeded in the future, Japan will undoubtedly
be destroyed by the attacks of the Mongol forces. That would
seem to be the kind of disaster that Hei no Saemon is intent
upon calling forth. When it happens, I doubt that you and
your followers can find any safety even on this island!"
After I had finished speaking, Homma, looking deeply perplexed,
set off on his way.
The lay believers, hearing of this, said to
one another, "Perhaps this priest has some kind of spiritual
powers. How terrifying! From now on, we had better cease giving
any alms and support to the Nembutsu and Ritsu priests!"
The Ritsu priests, who were followers of Ryokan, and the Nembutsu
priests said, "Since this priest predicted the outbreak
of rebellion in Kamakura, perhaps he is one of the conspirators
himself." After this, things grew somewhat quieter.
Then the Nembutsu priests gathered in council.
"If things go on this way," they said, "we
will die of starvation. How can we rid ourselves of this priest?
Already more than half of the people in the province have
gone over to his side. What are we to do?"
Yuiamidabutsu, the leader of the Nembutsu
priests, along with Dokan, a disciple of Ryokan, and Shoyu-bo,
who were leaders of the Ritsu priests, journeyed in haste
to Kamakura. There they reported to Hojo Nobutoki, lord of
the province of Musashi. "If this priest remains on the
island of Sado, there will soon be not a single Buddhist hall
left standing or a single monk remaining! He takes the statues
of Amida Buddha and throws them in the fire or casts them
into the river. Day and night he climbs the high mountains,
bellows to the sun and moon, and curses the authorities. The
sound of his voice can be heard throughout the entire province."
When Hojo Nobutoki heard this, he decided
there was no need to report it to the Regent. Instead he sent
private orders that any followers of Nichiren in the province
of Sado should be driven out of the province or imprisoned.
He also sent official letters containing similar instructions.
He did so three times. I will not attempt to describe what
happened thereafter--you can probably imagine. Some people
were thrown into prison because they were said to have walked
past my hut, others were exiled because they were reported
to have given me presents, or their wives and children were
taken into custody. Hojo Nobutoki then reported what he had
done to the Regent. But quite contrary to his expectations,
the Regent issued a letter of pardon on the fourteenth day,
the second month, of the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274), which
reached Sado on the eighth day of the third month.
The Nembutsu priests held another council.
"This man, the enemy of the Buddha Amida and slanderer
of Priest Shan-tao and Saint Honen, has incurred the displeasure
of the authorities and was banished to this island. How can
we bear to see him pardoned and allowed to return home alive!"
While they were engaged in various plots,
for some reason there was an unexpected change in the weather.
A favorable wind began to blow and I was able to leave the
island. The strait can be crossed in three days with a favorable
wind, or fifty or a hundred days when the weather is bad.
I crossed over in no time at all.
Thereupon the Nembutsu, Ritsu and Shingon
priests of Ko in Echigo and Zenko-ji temple in Shinano gathered
from all directions to hold a meeting. "What a shame
that the Sado priests should have allowed Nichiren to return
alive! Whatever we do, we must not let this man make his way
past the living body of the Buddha Amida!"
But in spite of their machinations, a number
of warriors from the Ko government office in Echigo were dispatched
to escort me. Thus I was able to pass safely by Zenko-ji,
and the Nembutsu priests were powerless to stop me. I left
the island of Sado on the thirteenth day of the third month,
and arrived in Kamakura on the twenty-sixth day of the same
On the eighth day of the fourth month, I had
an interview with Hei no Saemon. In contrast to his behavior
on previous occasions, his manner was quite mild and he treated
me with courtesy. An accompanying priest asked me about the
Nembutsu, a layman asked about the Shingon sect, and another
person asked about Zen, while Hei no Saemon himself inquired
whether it was possible to attain enlightenment through any
of the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra. I replied to
each of these questions by citing passages from the sutras.
Then Hei no Saemon, apparently acting on behalf
of the Regent, asked when the Mongol forces would invade Japan.
I replied, "They will surely come within this year. I
have already expressed my opinion on this matter, but it has
not been heeded. If you try to treat someone's illness without
knowing what the cause of the illness is, you will only make
the person sicker than before. In the same way, if the Shingon
priests are permitted to try to overcome the Mongols with
their prayers and imprecations, they will only make the country
more susceptible to military defeat. Under no circumstances
whatever should the Shingon priests, or the priests of any
other sects for that matter, be allowed to offer up prayers.
It would be different if any of them had a real understanding
of Buddhism, but they do not, even when it is explained to
"Also, I notice that, although advice
from others is heeded, when I offer advice, it is for some
strange reason invariably ignored. However, I would like to
state certain facts here so that you may think them over later.
Emperor Gotoba was the sovereign of the nation and Hojo Yoshitoki
was his subject, and yet the latter attacked and defeated
the emperor. Why would the Sun Goddess Tensho Daijin permit
a subject to attack an emperor, who should be like a father
to him? Why would Bodhisattva Hachiman allow a vassal to attack
his lord with impunity? And yet, as we know, the emperor and
the courtiers supporting him were defeated by Hojo Yoshitoki.
That defeat was no mere accident. It came about because they
put faith in the misleading teachings of Kobo Daishi and the
biased views of Jikaku Daishi and Chisho Daishi, and because
the monks of the monasteries of Mount Hiei, To-ji and Ono-ji
sided with the courtiers in their opposition to the Kamakura
shogunate. Thus their curses 'returned to the originators,'
as the Lotus Sutra says, and, as a consequence, the emperor
and his courtiers were forced to suffer defeat. The military
leaders in Kamakura knew nothing of such rituals, so no prayers
or curses were offered. But if they now offer prayers they
will meet the same doom as the courtiers.
"The Ezo people of northern Japan have
no understanding of the doctrine of karma. Ando Goro was a
man of devout faith who knew the laws of cause and effect
and erected many Buddhist halls and towers. And yet the Ezo
cut off his head for some reason. In view of these events,
I have no doubt that if these priests are allowed to go on
offering their prayers for victory, Your Lordship too will
meet with some untoward event. And when that happens, you
must not under any circumstances say that I failed to warn
you!" Such was the stern manner in which I addressed
When I returned home, I heard that the priest
Hoin of the Amida Hall had been ordered to pray for rain from
the tenth day of the fourth month. This Hoin is the most learned
priest of To-ji and the teacher of Dojo of Ninna-ji. He adheres
with absolute fidelity to the esoteric Shingon teachings of
Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho and has memorized all the doctrines
of the Tendai and Kegon sects. He began praying for rain on
the tenth day, and on the eleventh a heavy rain fell. There
was no wind, but only a gentle rain that fell for a day and
a night. Hojo Tokimune, the lord of the province of Sagami,
was said to have been so deeply impressed that he presented
Hoin with thirty ryo in gold, a horse and other gifts
as a reward.
When the people of Kamakura, both eminent
and humble, heard of this, they clapped their hands, pursed
their lips and laughed with derision, saying, "That Nichiren
preached a false kind of Buddhism and came near to getting
his head cut off. He was finally pardoned in the end, but
instead of learning a lesson, he goes on slandering the Nembutsu
and Zen sects, and even dares to speak ill of the esoteric
teachings of Shingon. How fortunate now that we have had this
rain to serve as proof of the power of Shingon prayers!"
Faced with these criticisms, my disciples
became quite downcast and complained that I had been too provocative
in my attacks on the other sects. But I said to them, "Just
wait a while. If the evil teachings of Kobo Daishi could in
fact produce effective prayers for the welfare of the nation,
then Emperor Gotoba would surely have been victorious in his
struggle with the Kamakura shogunate, and Setaka, the favorite
boy attendant of Dojo of Ninna-ji, would not have had his
head cut off. Kobo in his Jujushin-ron states that
the Lotus Sutra is inferior to the Kegon Sutra. In
his Hizo Hoyaku he claims that the Shakyamuni Buddha
of the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra is an ordinary
mortal, and in his Kemmitsu-nikyo Ron he calls the
Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai a thief. Moreover, the Shingon priest
Kakuban in his Shariko-shiki states that the Buddha
who preached the Lotus Sutra is not even worthy to be the
sandal-bearer of a Shingon master. Hoin of the Amida Hall
is a follower of the men who taught these perverse doctrines.
If such a man could show himself superior to me, then the
Dragon Kings who send down the rain must be the enemies of
the Lotus Sutra, and they will surely be chastised by the
gods Bonten and Taishaku and the Four Heavenly Kings. There
must be more to this than meets the eye!"
"What do you mean by 'more than meets
the eye'?" my disciples asked with a scornful smile.
I replied, "Shan-wu-wei and Pu-k'ung
both caused rain to fall in answer to their prayers, but it
appears that they also brought about high winds. When Kobo
prayed for rain, it fell after twenty-one days had passed.
But under such circumstances, it is the same as though he
had not caused it to rain at all, since some rain is naturally
bound to fall in the course of a twenty-one day interval.
The fact that it happened to rain while he was praying for
it is in no way remarkable. What is really impressive is to
cause it to fall through a single ceremony, the way T'ien-t'ai
and Senkan did. That is why I say there must be something
peculiar about this rain."
I had not even finished speaking when a great
gale began to blow. Houses of every size, temples and shrines,
old trees and government buildings all were swept up into
the air or toppled to the ground. A huge shining object flew
through the sky, and the earth was strewn with beams and rafters.
Men and women were blown to their death, and many cattle and
horses were struck down. One might have excused such an evil
wind if it had come in autumn, the typhoon season, but this
was only the fourth month, the beginning of summer. Moreover,
this wind struck only the eight provinces of the Kanto region,
and in fact only the two provinces of Musashi and Sagami.
It blew strongest in Sagami; and within Sagami, it blew strongest
in Kamakura; and within Kamakura, it blew strongest at the
government headquarters, Wakamiya, and the temples of Kencho-ji
and Gokuraku-ji. It was apparent that it was no ordinary wind,
but rather the result of Hoin's prayers alone. The people
who had earlier pursed their lips and laughed at me suddenly
turned sober, and my disciples too were astonished.
As I had expected all along, my warnings had
gone unheeded. If after three attempts to warn the rulers
of the nation one's advice is still unheeded, one should leave
the area. With that thought in mind, I accordingly left Kamakura
on the twelfth day of the fifth month and came here to Mount
In the tenth month of the same year (1274),
the Mongols launched their attack. Not only were the islands
of Iki and Tsushima assaulted and captured, but the forces
at the Dazaifu government office in Kyushu were defeated as
well. When the military leaders Shoni Sukeyoshi and Otomo
Yoriyasu received word of this, they fled from the scene,
and the remaining warriors were taken captive without difficulty.
Though the Mongol forces withdrew, it was apparent just how
weak Japan's defenses would be if they should launch another
attack in the future.
The Ninno Sutra says, "When the
sage departs, the seven types of calamity will invariably
arise." The Saisho-o Sutra states, "Because
evil men are respected and favored and good men are subjected
to punishment, marauders will appear from other regions and
the people of the country will meet with death and disorder."
If these pronouncements of the Buddha are true, then evil
men certainly exist in our country and the rulers favor and
respect such men while they treat good men with enmity.
The Daijuku Sutra states, "The
sun and moon do not show their brightness and there is drought
on every side. Thus do evil kings and evil monks who commit
unrighteous acts bring destruction upon my True Law."
In the Ninno Sutra we read, "The evil monks, seeking
for all the fame and gain they can get, will appear in the
presence of the ruler, the heir apparent, and the princes
and expound doctrines that lead to the destruction of Buddhism
and the destruction of the state. The ruler, unable to discern
the true nature of the monks' words, listen to them with trust,
and thus they become the cause for the destruction of Buddhism
and the destruction of the state." And the Lotus Sutra
speaks of the "evil monks of this defiled world."
If these passages in the sutras are true, then there must
unquestionably be evil monks in the country. The crooked trees
should be cut down on a treasure-filled mountain, and dead
bodies should not be consigned to the great sea. Though the
Great Sea of the Buddhist Law and the Treasure Mountain of
the Supreme Vehicle may admit the rubble and trash of the
five cardinal sins or the dirty water of the four major offenses,
they have no room for the dead bodies of those who slander
the Lotus Sutra, or for the "crooked trees," the
men of incorrigible disbelief. Therefore those who endeavor
to practice the Buddhist Law and who care about what happens
to them in future lives should know what a fearful thing it
is to slander the Lotus Sutra.
Many people wonder why anyone should pay heed
to a person like myself who speaks ill of Kobo, Jikaku and
the others of their group. I do not know about other regions,
but I know that the people of Tojo and Saijo in the province
of Awa have good reason to believe what I say. They have seen
the proof right before their eyes. Endon-bo of Inomori, Saigyo-bo
and Dogi-bo of Seicho-ji temple, and Jitchi-bo of Kataumi
were all eminent monks. But one should inquire what kind of
death they met with. However, I will say no more of them.
Enchi-bo, another monk of Seicho-ji, spent three years in
the great hall of the temple copying the text of the Lotus
Sutra in a laborious fashion, bowing three times as he copied
each character. He had memorized all ten volumes, and every
day and night recited the entire sutra twice for a period
of fifty years. Everyone predicted that he would surely become
a Buddha. But I alone said that he, along with Dogi-bo, was
even more certain to fall into the hell of incessant suffering
than were the Nembutsu priests. You would do well to inquire
carefully just what kind of death these men met with, and
to see if the manner of their death did not support my predictions.
If it had not been for me, people would have believed that
these monks had attained Buddhahood. You should realize from
this the accuracy of my prophecies!
Kobo, Jikaku and the others died in a manner
indicating that a truly miserable fate was in store for them,
but their disciples contrived to keep the matter secret so
that even the members of the Imperial Court never learned
of it. Hence these men have been looked up to with increasing
reverence in later ages. And if there had been no one like
me to reveal the truth, they would have gone on being honored
in that manner for endless ages to come. The heretical teacher
Uluka turned to stone at his death, but eight hundred years
later his errors were brought to light and the stone melted
and turned to water. And in the case of another heretical
teacher, Kapila, a thousand years passed before his faults
were brought to light.
A person is able to be born in human form
because he or she has observed the five precepts in a previous
existence. And if he continues to observe the five precepts
in this life, then the twenty-five benevolent deities will
protect him and Dosho and Domyo, the two heavenly messengers
who have been with him since birth on his left and right shoulders
respectively, will guard him. So long as he commits no fault,
the demons will have no chance to do him harm. And yet in
this country of Japan, there are countless people who cry
out in misery. We know, too, what the people of the islands
of Iki and Tsushima had to suffer at the hands of the Mongols,
and what befell the defenders of the Dazaifu in Kyushu. What
fault were the people of these regions guilty of that they
should meet with such a fate? One would surely like to know
the answer. One or two of the persons there may have been
guilty of evil, but is it possible that all of them could
The blame lies entirely in the fact that this
country is filled with Shingon priests who follow the doctrines
handed down from Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho; with Nembutsu priests
who are the latter-day disciples of Shan-tao and Honen; and
with the followers of Bodhidharma and the other patriarchs
of the Zen sect. That is why the gods Bonten and Taishaku,
the Four Heavenly Kings and the other deities, true to the
vows they took to protect the Lotus Sutra and split into seven
pieces the head of anyone who is at fault, have sent down
Some people may be perplexed at this point
and object that, although those who do harm to a votary of
the Lotus Sutra are supposed to have their heads split into
seven pieces, there are men who slander Nichiren and yet do
not have broken heads. Are we to conclude, they may ask, that
Nichiren is not a true votary of the Lotus Sutra?
I would reply by saying that, if Nichiren
is not a votary of the Lotus Sutra, then who is? Is Honen,
who in his writings ordered people to throw the Lotus Sutra
away, a votary? Is Kobo Daishi, who said that Shakyamuni was
still in the darkness, a votary? Or are Shan-wu-wei and Jikaku,
who taught that although the Lotus Sutra and Shingon are equal
in theory, the latter is superior in practice, votaries?
Again, this matter of the head being split
into seven pieces--one need not imagine the kind of split
made by a sharp sword. On the contrary, the Lotus Sutra says
that the split is like that of the "branches of the arjaka
tree." In a person's head there are seven drops of liquid
and seven demons. If the demons drink one drop, the person's
head begins to ache. If they drink three drops, his life will
be endangered, and if they drink all seven drops, he will
die. People in the world today all have heads that have split
apart like the branches of the arjaka tree, but they
are so steeped in evil karma that they are not even aware
of the fact. They are like persons who have been injured while
they were asleep or in a state of drunkenness and have not
yet become conscious of their injury.
Rather than saying that the head is split
into seven pieces, we sometimes say that the mind is split
into seven pieces. The skull bone under the scalp breaks apart
because of the reverberations of the mind. There are also
splittings of the skull that take place only after death.
Many people of our own period had their heads split open in
the great earthquake of the Shoka era (1257) or at the time
of the appearance of the great comet in the Bun'ei era (1264).
At the time their heads split open, they had difficulty breathing,
and when their five major internal organs failed to function
correctly, they suffered from dysentery. How could they have
failed to realize that they were being punished because they
slandered the votary of the Lotus Sutra!
Because venison is tasty, the deer is hunted
and killed; because oil can be obtained from the turtle, the
turtle loses his life. If a woman is attractive, there will
be many who envy her. The ruler of a nation has much to fear
from other nations, and the life of a man with great wealth
is constantly in danger. He who abides by the Lotus Sutra
will inevitably attain Buddhahood. Therefore the Devil of
the Sixth Heaven, the lord of this threefold world, will become
intensely jealous of anyone who abides by the sutra. This
devil king, we are told, attaches himself like a plague demon
to people in a way that cannot be detected by the eye. Thereafter,
like persons who gradually become drunk on fine old wine,
rulers, fathers and mothers, wives and children gradually
become possessed by him and are filled with envy of the votary
of the Lotus Sutra. And that is precisely the situation we
face today in the world around us. Because I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
I have, for over twenty years, been driven from place to place.
Twice I have incurred the wrath of the authorities, and in
the end I have retired to this mountain.
This mountain is in fact made up of four mountains,
Shichimen to the west, Tenshi-no-take to the east, Minobu
to the north, and Takatori to the south. Each is high enough
to touch the sky and so steep that even flying birds have
trouble crossing them. In their midst are four rivers called
Fujigawa, Hayakawa, Oshirakawa, and Minobugawa. In the middle,
in a ravine some hundred yards or so across, I have built
my hut. I cannot see the sun in the daytime or the moon at
night. In winter there is deep snow, and in summer the grass
grows thick. Because so few people come to see me, the trail
is very hard to travel. This year, especially, the snow is
so deep that I have no visitors at all. Knowing that my life
may end at any time, I put all my trust in the Lotus Sutra.
In these circumstances, your letter was particularly welcome.
It seemed almost like a message from Shakyamuni Buddha or
from my departed parents, I cannot tell you how grateful I
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
Vol. 1, page 173.