The Dragon Gate
- Ueno-dono Gohenji -
In China there is a waterfall called the Dragon Gate. Its
waters plunge a hundred feet, more swiftly than an arrow
shot by a strong archer. It is said that thousands of carp
gather in the basin below, hoping to climb the falls, and
that any which succeed will turn into a dragon. However,
not a single carp out of a hundred, a thousand or even ten
thousand can climb the falls, not even after ten or twenty
years. Some are swept away by the strong currents, some
fall prey to eagles, hawks, kites and owls, and others are
netted, scooped up, or even shot with arrows by fishermen
who line either bank of the wide falls. Such is the difficulty
of a carp becoming a dragon.
There were once two major warrior clans in Japan, the Minamoto
and the Taira. They were like two faithful watchdogs at
the gates of the Imperial Palace. They were as eager to
guard the emperor as a woodcutter is to admire the harvest
moon as it rises from behind the mountains. They marveled
at the elegant parties of the court nobles and their ladies,
just as monkeys in the trees are enraptured by the light
of the moon and stars glittering in the sky. Though of low
rank, they longed to find some way to mingle in court circles.
But even though Sadamori of the Taira clan crushed the rebellion
of Masakado, he was still not admitted to court. Nor were
any of his descendants, including the famous Masamori. Not
until the time of Masamori's son, Tadamori, were any of
the Taira clan granted permission to enter the court. The
next in line, Kiyomori, and his son Shigemori, not only
enjoyed life among court nobles but became directly related
to the throne when Kiyomori's daughter married the emperor
and bore him a child.
Attaining Buddhahood is no easier than for men of low status
to enter court circles or for carp to climb the Dragon Gate.
Shariputra, for example, practiced bodhisattva austerities
for sixty aeons in order to attain Buddhahood, but finally
surrendered to his obstacles and slipped back into the paths
of the two vehicles. Even some of those taught by Shakyamuni,
when he was the sixteenth son of Daitsu Buddha, sank into
the world of sufferings for the duration of sanzen-jintengo.
Some others taught by him in the even more remote past when
he first attained enlightenment suffered for the length
of gohyaku-jintengo. All these people practiced the
Lotus Sutra, but when persecuted by the Devil of the Sixth
Heaven in the form of their sovereigns or other authorities,
they forsook their faith and thus wandered among the six
paths for countless aeons.
Up until now these events seemed to have no bearing on
us, but now we find ourselves facing the same kind of persecution.
No matter what, all my disciples must cherish the great
desire of attaining enlightenment. We are very fortunate
to be alive after the widespread epidemics which occurred
last year and the year before. But now with the impending
Mongol invasion it appears that few will survive. In the
end, no one can escape death. The sufferings at the time
of invasion will be no worse than those we are facing now.
Since death is the same in either case, you should be willing
to offer your life for the Lotus Sutra. Think of this offering
as a drop of dew rejoining the ocean or a speck of dust
returning to the earth. A passage from the seventh chapter
of the Lotus Sutra reads, "Our desire is to share this
blessing equally with all people, and we, together with
them, will attain Buddhahood."
With my deep respect,
The sixth day of the eleventh month.
I write this letter in deep gratitude for the encouragement
you are giving those involved in the Atsuhara Persecution.
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, page