Letter to Akimoto
I have received the thirty cylindrical
vessels and the sixty plates that you were kind enough to
A vessel is a kind of utensil. Because
the great earth is hollowed out, water collects on it; and
because the blue sky is pure, the moon shines in it. When
the moon rises, the water glows with a pure light; and when
the rain falls, the plants and trees flourish.
A vessel is hollowed out like the earth,
and water can be collected in it the way water is stored
in a pond. And the reflection of the moon floats on the
surface of the water in the same way that the Lotus Sutra
pervades our being.
But a vessel is susceptible to four faults.
The first is called fuku which means that the vessel
overturns or is rendered useless because a lid is put on
it. The second is called ro, which means that the
water leaks out. The third is called u, which means
that the contents are contaminated. Though the water itself
may be pure, if filth is dumped into it, then the water
in the vessel ceases to be of any use. The fourth is called
zo or "mixed." If rice is mixed with filth
or pebbles or sand or dirt, then it is no longer fit for
The vessel here stands for our bodies and
minds. Our minds are a kind of vessel, and our mouths too
are vessels, as are our ears. The Lotus Sutra is the Dharma
water of the Buddhas wisdom. But when this water is
poured into our minds, then we may jar and upset it. Or
we may shut it out by placing our hands over our ears, determined
not to listen to it. Or we may spit it out of our mouths,
determined not to let our mouths chant it. In such cases,
we are like a vessel that has overturned or has had a lid
placed on it.
Again, although we may have a certain amount
of faith, we may encounter evil influences and find our
faith weakening. Then we will deliberately abandon our faith,
or, even though we maintain our faith for a day, we will
set it aside for a month. In such cases, we are like vessels
that let the water leak out.
Or we may be the kind of practitioners
of the Lotus Sutra whose mouths are reciting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
one moment, but Namu Amida Butsu the next. This is like
mixing filth with ones rice, or putting sand or pebbles
in it. This is what the Lotus Sutra is warning against when
it says: "Desiring only to accept and embrace the sutra
of the great vehicle and not accepting a single verse of
the other sutras..."1
The learned authorities in the world today
suppose that there is no harm in mixing extraneous practices
with the practice of the Lotus Sutra, and I, Nichiren, was
once of that opinion myself. But the passage from the sutra
[that I have just quoted] does not permit such a view. Suppose
that a woman who had been the consort of a great king and
had become pregnant with his seed should then turn round
and marry a man of the common people. In such a case, the
seed of the king and the seed of the commoner would become
mixed together, and, as a result, the aid and assistance
of heaven and the protection of the patron deities would
be withdrawn and the kingdom would face ruin. The child
born from two such fathers would be neither a king nor a
commoner, but a kind of subhuman being.
This is one of the most important points
in the Lotus Sutra. The doctrine of the sowing of the seed
and its maturing and harvesting2
is the very heart and core of the Lotus Sutra. All the Buddhas
of the three existences and the ten directions have invariably
attained Buddhahood through the seeds represented by the
five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. The words Namu Amida
Butsu are not the seeds of Buddhahood, nor can the mantras
or the five precepts act as such seeds. One must be perfectly
clear about this point, because this is the fault referred
to as "mixed."
If a vessel is free of these four faults
of overturning, leaking, being contaminated and being mixed,
then it can be called a perfect vessel. If the embankments
around a moat do not leak, then the water will never escape
from the moat. And if the mind of faith is perfect, then
the water of wisdom, the great impartial wisdom, will never
Now these vessels that you have sent me
are sturdy and thick, and in addition they are coated with
pure lacquer. They symbolize the firmness and sturdiness
of the power of your faith in the Lotus Sutra.
It is said that Bishamonten presented four
bowls to the Buddha and as a result became known as the
foremost deity of good fortune in all the four continents
of the world. Lady Jotoku presented eighty-four thousand
bowls as an offering to the Buddha Unraionno, and as a result
became the bodhisattva Myoon. And now, since you have presented
these thirty vessels and sixty plates, is there any doubt
that you will become a Buddha?
The country of Japan is known by ten different
names, such as Fuso, Yamato, Mizuho and Akitsushima. In
addition, it may be described as a country of sixty-six
provinces and two islands3
that measures over three thousand ri in length, and
varies in width from a hundred ri to five hundred
ri. It is divided into the five provinces of the
capital area and the seven marches, and it has 586 districts
and 3,729 villages. In terms of fields it includes 11,120
cho of superior lands and 885,567 cho of other
kinds. The population numbers 4,989,658 persons. There are
3,132 shrines and 11,037 temples. Men number 1,994,828 and
Among all these men, Nichiren alone deserves
to be regarded as foremost. In what sense is he foremost?
He is foremost in being hated by men and women. The reason
is that, although the provinces of Japan are numerous and
their inhabitants are likewise numerous, they are alike
in heart and their mouths all utter Namu Amida Butsu. They
look upon Amida Buddha as their object of worship, hate
all the other nine directions, and long only for the west.4
Thus those who practice the Lotus Sutra, those who carry
out Shingon practices, those who observe the precepts, those
who are wise and those who are foolish all look upon these
practices as secondary and upon the Nembutsu as their primary
practice and, hoping in this way to expiate their offenses,
they recite the Buddhas name. Hence some of them recite
it 60,000 times, 80,000 times or 480,000 times, while others
recite it 10 times, 100 times or 1,000 times.
But I, Nichiren, one man alone, declare
that the recitation of the name of Amida Buddha is an action
that leads to rebirth in the hell of incessant suffering,
that the Zen sect is the invention of the Devil of Heaven,
that Shingon is an evil doctrine that will destroy the country,
and that the Ritsu sect and the observers of the precepts
are traitors to the nation.
Because I do so, from the sovereign on
down to the common people, all persons fear me more than
they would an enemy of their parents, an enemy from a past
existence, a plotter of treason, a night raider or a bandit.
They rage, they curse, they strike at me. Those who slander
me are given grants of land, while those who praise me are
driven from their areas or fined, and the people who desire
to kill me are singled out for rewards. And on top of all
this, I have twice incurred the wrath of the authorities.5
I am not only the strangest person alive
in the world today; in the reigns of the ninety human sovereigns,6
in the seven hundred or more years since the Buddhist teachings
were first introduced to Japan, there has never been such
a strange person.
I, Nichiren, am like the great comet of
the Bunei era (1264), a disorder of the heavens such
as had never happened in Japan before that time. I, Nichiren,
am like the great earthquake of the Shoka era (1257), a
freak of the earth that had never occurred in this land
until that time.
In Japan since the history of the country
began, there have been twenty-six perpetrators of treason.
The first was Prince Oyama, the second was Oishi no Yamamaru,
and so on down to the twenty-fifth, Yoritomo, and the twenty-sixth,
Yoshitoki. The first twenty-four of these men were struck
down by the imperial forces and had their heads exposed
at the prison gate or their corpses left to rot in the mountain
fields. But the last two succeeded in overthrowing the sovereign
and gaining complete control of the nation, and at that
time the imperial rule came to an end.
And yet these various perpetrators of treason
are less hated by the mass of people than is Nichiren. If
you ask why that should be, I will tell you. The Lotus Sutra
contains a passage declaring that that sutra is first among
all the sutras.7 However,
the Great Teacher Kobo declares that the Lotus Sutra ranks
third,8 while the Great
Teacher Jikaku declares that the Lotus Sutra ranks second,
9and the Great Teacher
Chisho agrees with Jikaku. Hence at present, when the priests
of Mount Hiei, To-Ji and Onjo-ji confront the Lotus Sutra,
they read the passage that says the Lotus Sutra is first,
but what they understand when they read it is that the Lotus
Sutra is second or third in standing.
The members of the courtier and warrior
families have no detailed information about this matter.
But since the eminent priests upon whom they rely in matters
of faith all subscribe to this opinion, the lay followers
share the same view as their teachers.
With regard to other groups, the Zen sect
describes itself as a teaching transmitted apart from the
sutras,10 and hence
speaks with scorn of the Lotus Sutra. The Nembutsu sect
asserts that "not one person in a thousand..."11
and that "not a single person has ever attained Buddhahood"12
through any other teaching, by which it means that, in comparison
to the Nembutsu, the Lotus Sutra is too lofty to practice
and therefore ought to be rejected. The Ritsu sect is composed
of Hinayana doctrines. Even in the Former Day of the Law
the Buddha would not condone the spread of such teachings,
so surely he would never approve of them being propagated
in the Latter Day of the Law, causing the ruler of the nation
to be confused and misled.
Three women of antiquity -- Ta Chi, Mo
Hsi and Pao Ssu -- misled the rulers of the three dynasties13
and caused them to lose their thrones. And in the same way,
these evil doctrines are propagated throughout the nation
and cause the Lotus Sutra to lose its proper place. As a
result, the great sovereigns Antoku, Takahira and the others
were cast aside by Tensho Daijin and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman
and drowned in the sea or were exiled to distant islands.
They were overthrown by families who for generations in
the past had been their followers, and this was because
they had lost the protection of the heavenly deities. They
put their faith in those who are enemies of the Lotus Sutra.
But because there was no one who understood this, they had
no way to learn of their error. This is illustrated in the
statement that wise men can perceive the cause of things,
just as snakes know the way of snakes.14
I, Nichiren, am no wise man. But just as
a snake can understand the mind of a dragon and crows can
foretell the coming of good or bad fortune in the world,
so I was able to fathom the course that events would take.
And I knew that if I spoke out on the matter, I would instantly
meet with punishment, while if I did not speak out, I would
fall into the great Avichi hell.
In studying the Lotus Sutra, there are
three principles that must be understood. The first is that
regarding slanderers. Monk Shoi, Monk Kugan, the scholar
Vimalamitra and the Great Arrogant Brahman are examples.
These men dressed their bodies in the three robes, lifted
a single begging bowl up before their eyes,15
and meticulously observed the two hundred and fifty precepts,
and yet they were in fact enemies of the Mahayana and in
the end fell into the great citadel of the hell of incessant
In recent times in Japan there have been
men like Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho who observed the precepts
just as those earlier monks did and who did not differ from
them in wisdom. But because they asserted that "The
Shingon teaching of the Dainichi Sutra ranks first
and the Lotus Sutra ranks second or third," if my view
of the matter should by any chance be correct, they are
now in the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
It is a fearful thing to utter such words,
and still more does one hesitate to put them into writing.
But, when the Buddha himself has declared that the Lotus
is foremost, if one learns of a person who ranks it second
or third and, out of fear of other people or of government
authorities, fails to speak out, then "one is in fact
an enemy,"16 that
is, one is acting as a fearful enemy to all living beings.
This is stated in both the sutras and the commentaries,
and so I speak out.
To speak out without fearing and without
flinching before society this is what the sutra means
when it says, "We care nothing for our bodies or lives
but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way."17
It is not that one does not recall the
evil accusations, the sticks and stones that were suffered
by Bodhisattva Fukyo. It is not that one is unafraid of
the world. It is just that the censures of the Lotus Sutra
are even more severe. It is like the case of Sukenari and
Tokimune, who acted as they did even though they found themselves
in the camp of the shogun because they longed to avenge
themselves upon their enemy and were ashamed at the thought
of failing to do so.
The above is the principle relating to
As for the families of slanderers, the
family members may pass their entire lives without slandering
the Lotus Sutra. But even though they practice it every
hour of the day and night, the fact that they were born
into the family of a slanderer means that they will invariably
be reborn in the hell of incessant suffering.18
For example, those persons who were born into the family
of Monk Shoi or Monk Kugan and became their disciples or
lay supporters all fell, against their will, into the hell
of incessant suffering. Or it is like the family members
of Yoshimori. Setting aside the question of those who gave
their lives in battle, even the children still in their
mothers wombs, torn from their mothers bellies,
were killed before birth.
Now I, Nichiren, have mentioned the three
great teachers Kobo, Jikaku and Chisho, who boldly state
in their writings that the Lotus Sutra represents the region
of darkness, that it is a false and deluded doctrine. If
what the Lotus Sutra itself says is correct, then what do
you suppose will become of all the priests at Mount Hiei,
To-ji, Onjo-ji, the seven major temples of Nara and the
other 11,037 temples throughout Japan? If the examples cited
earlier are any indication, they will without a doubt fall
into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
Such is the principle relating to the families
Next we come to the country of slanderers.
Those persons who happen to live in a country where there
are slanderers of the Law will all -- everyone in the entire
country -- be condemned to the great citadel of the hell
of incessant suffering. Just as all the various waters gather
in the great ocean, so all kinds of misfortune gather about
such a country. They will abound in the way that grass and
trees abound on a mountain.
When the three calamities pile up month
after month and the seven disasters appear day after day,
then hunger and thirst will prevail and the country will
be changed into a realm of hungry spirits. When plague and
disease sweep over the land, the country will become a realm
of hell. When warfare breaks out, it will be transformed
into a realm of asuras. And when parents, brothers and sisters,
ignoring the fact that they are kin, begin taking each other
for a husband or wife, the country will become a realm of
beasts. Under such circumstances, one does not have to wait
until death to fall into the three evil paths. While one
is still alive, the country in which one lives will be changed
into these four evil realms.
Such is the principle relating to a country
where slanderers live.
The people in such a country will be like
those who lived in the Latter Day of Daishogon Buddha, or
in the defiled age of Shishionno Buddha. Or, if what the
Hoon Sutra tells us is true, people will eat the
flesh of their own deceased parents or brothers or sisters
or of any other dead person, and they will eat live creatures
Japan at present is just such a country.
The entire nation is full of Shingon teachers, members of
the Zen sect and observers of the precepts who eat people.
And this has come about wholly as a result of the false
doctrines of Shingon.
Ryuzo-bo is merely one of the countless
number of eaters of people whose case has happened to come
to light. In a spirit similar to his, people procure human
flesh and mix it with boar or deer meat, or cut it up and
blend it with fish or fowl, pound it or pickle it and then
sell it. It is impossible to tell how many people have eaten
it. All this has happened because the country has been cast
aside by the heavenly gods and abandoned by the benevolent
deities who watch over and protect it. In the end, this
country will be attacked by other nations, its inhabitants
will fall to fighting among themselves, and it will be transformed
into a veritable hell of incessant suffering.
Because I, Nichiren, have for some time
been able to see the great error of its ways, because I
wish to avoid the offense of complicity in slander, because
I fear the accusations of the Buddhas, and because I understand
my obligations and wish to repay the debt of gratitude I
owe my country, I have announced and made known all of this
to the ruler of the country and to all its inhabitants.
The precept against the killing of living
creatures is the first among all the various precepts. The
five precepts begin with the precept against taking life,
and the eight precepts, the ten precepts, the two hundred
and fifty precepts, the five hundred precepts, the ten major
precepts of the Bommo Sutra, the ten inexhaustible
precepts of the Kegon Sutra and the ten precepts
of the Yoraku Sutra, all begin with the precept against
killing. And among the three thousand penalties prescribed
by the Confucian school, capital punishment stands in first
The reason is that "Nothing throughout
the entire major world system matches the value of a living
means that not even all the jewels and treasures that fill
the entire major world system can equal the value of a life.
One who kills a mere ant will fall into hell, to say nothing
of those who kill fish or birds! One who cuts a mere blade
of green grass will fall into hell, to say nothing of those
who cut up dead bodies!
And yet, grave as are these prohibitions
against taking life, it is stated that if a person acts
as an enemy of the Lotus Sutra, then one who puts such a
person to death is performing an act of outstanding benefit.
And if this is so, then how could it possibly be right to
offer alms and support to such a person? This is why King
Senyo put to death 500 Brahman teachers, why the monk
Kakutoku put to death a countless number of slanderers of
the Law, and why the great monarch Ashoka put to death 108,000
These rulers and monks were looked upon
as the most worthy kings in the entire land of Jambudvipa,
as the wisest of all among the observers of the precepts.
King Senyo was later reborn as Shakyamuni Buddha,
the monk Kakutoku was reborn as Kasho Buddha, and the great
monarch Ashoka was recognized as a man who had attained
Today Japan resembles the countries of
these persons. It is a country where, whether they are observers
of the precepts, breakers of the precepts or persons without
precepts, whether they are rulers, ministers or common people,
everyone joins together as one in slandering the Lotus Sutra.
The situation is such that, even if one should strip off
his own skin and transcribe the Lotus Sutra on it, or should
offer his own flesh as alms,20
the country would still be certain to perish and that person
himself would fall into hell, so great is his offense. The
only remedy is to bar the way to the Shingon sect, the Nembutsu
sect, the Zen sect and the observers of the precepts, and
to devote oneself to the Lotus Sutra!
Those men who can recite from memory the
sixty volumes of the Tendai sect and who are thought by
the ruler of the nation and the other authorities to be
men of wisdom: is it because their wisdom fails them, or
because, though they understand the true situation, they
fear the world, that they praise the Shingon sect and join
forces with the Nembutsu, Zen and Ritsu followers? Their
guilt is a hundred, a thousand times greater than that of
these followers! They may be compared to Shigeyoshi or Yoshimura.
The Great Teacher Tzu-en wrote the
ten-volume Hokke genzan, in which he praised the
Lotus Sutra, and yet he fell into hell. This man was a leading
disciple of the Tripitaka Master Hsuan-tsang, who was the
teacher of Emperor Tai-tsung, and was said to have
been a reincarnation of the eleven-faced Kannon. The subject
matter of his writings resembled the Lotus Sutra, but at
heart it was identical with the sutras preached previous
to the Lotus Sutra, and that was the reason he fell into
The Great Teacher Chia-hsiang wrote the
ten-volume Hokke genron, and that would under ordinary
circumstances have condemned him to fall into the hell of
incessant suffering. But he set aside his own manner of
reading the Lotus Sutra and served the Great Teacher Tien-tai,
and thus was able to escape the pains of hell.
The men of the Hokke sect today are like
these men. Mount Hiei should be a stronghold of the Lotus
Sutra, and Japan should be a country devoted to the teachings
of the single vehicle. And yet the Great Teacher Jikaku
stole the post of chief priest of the sect that should have
been devoted to the Lotus Sutra and instead became a chief
priest of Shingon teachings, and all the three thousand
priests of the mountain became his followers.
The Great Teacher Kobo stole the allegiance
of Emperor Saga, who earlier had been a lay supporter of
the Hokke sect, and turned the imperial palace into a temple
of the Shingon sect.
Emperor Antoku, who relied on the chief
priest Myoun as his teacher, had him pray with incantations
for the defeat of the court minister Yoritomo. However,
not only were these men punished by General of the Right
Yoritomo, but in the end Emperor Antoku drowned in the western
sea and Myoun was put to death by Yoshinaka.
The sovereign Takahira summoned the administrator
of monks Jien, the Tendai chief priest, and other eminent
priests of To-ji, Omuro and other temples, forty-one men
in all, and had them erect a great altar in the imperial
palace and perform incantations to overpower Yoshitoki,
the acting administrator of the western sector of the capital.
But on the seventh day, which fell on the fourteenth day
of the sixth month, the capital was overwhelmed by Yoshitokis
forces, the sovereigns were exiled to the province of Oki
or to the island of Sado, the chief priest and the priests
of Omuro and the others were severely reprimanded, and in
some cases worried themselves to death.
The people of our time fail to understand
the true origin of these events. This is entirely because
they are confused as to the relative merit of the Lotus
Sutra and the Dainichi Sutra.
And now, when Japan faces the threat of
an attack from the great empire of the Mongols, we are told
that the authorities are employing these same inauspicious
doctrines in an attempt to overpower the Mongols through
incantations. The daily records also make it clear that
this is so. Can anyone who understands the true situation
fail to sigh in sorrow?
How tragic, that we should be born in a
country where people slander the True Law and should encounter
such great hardships! Though we may escape being slanderers
ourselves, how can we escape censure for belonging to a
family of slanderers or a country of slanderers?
If you would escape censure for being a
member of a family that includes slanderers, then speak
to your parents or your brothers about this matter. Perhaps
they will hate you for it, but perhaps they will put faith
in your words.
If you would escape censure for living
in a country where there are slanderers, then you should
remonstrate with the sovereign, though you may be condemned
to death or to exile. "We care nothing for our bodies
or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way,"
says the Lotus Sutra. And the commentary states, "Ones
body is insignificant while the Law is supreme. One should
give ones life in order to propagate the Law."21
The reason you have not succeeded in attaining
Buddhahood from countless distant kalpas in the past down
to the present is that, when a situation such as this has
arisen, you have been too fearful to speak out. And in the
future as well, this principle will prevail.
Now I, Nichiren, understand these things
because of what I myself have undergone. But even if there
are those among my disciples who understand them, they fear
the accusations of the times and, believing that their lives,
which are as frail as dew, are in fact to be relied upon,
backslide, keep their beliefs hidden in their hearts or
behave in other such ways.
A passage in the Lotus Sutra says that
the sutra is "the most difficult to believe and the
most difficult to understand,"22
and I have learned the value of this passage through my
own experience. Slanderers are as numerous as the particles
of dust on the earth; believers are as few as the dirt that
can be piled on a fingernail. Slanderers are a huge sea,
upholders, one drop of water.
On Mount Tien-tai there is
a place called the Dragon Gate, which is a waterfall a thousand
feet in height. At the beginning of spring the fish gather
there and attempt to ascend the waterfall, and if there
is one fish in a hundred or a thousand that succeeds in
ascending the waterfall, it will become a dragon.
The current of this waterfall is swifter
than an arrow or a flash of lightning. Not only is the waterfall
difficult to ascend, but at the beginning of spring fishermen
gather by the waterfall and spread hundreds and thousands
of nets to catch the fish, or shoot arrows at the fish or
scoop them up. Eagles, hawks, kites, owls, tigers, wolves,
dogs and foxes gather there as well, day and night snatching
up the fish and devouring them. Thus ten or twenty years
may go by without a single fish changing into a dragon.
It is like a person of common and humble station dreaming
of being admitted to the palace of the emperor, or a woman
of humble birth hoping to become empress.
And you should understand that taking faith
in the Lotus Sutra is even more difficult than this.
The Buddha has constantly warned us, saying
that no matter how great an observer of the precepts a person
may be, no matter how lofty in wisdom and well versed in
the Lotus Sutra and the other scriptures, if that person
sees an enemy of the Lotus Sutra but fails to attack and
denounce him or report him to the ruler of the nation, instead
keeping silent out of fear of others, then he will invariably
fall into the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
Suppose, by way of analogy, that one oneself commits no
treasonable act, but knows of someone who is plotting treason.
If one fails to inform the ruler, then one is guilty of
the same crime as the person who is plotting treason.
The Great Teacher Nan-yueh has stated:
"If one sees a foe of the Lotus Sutra and yet fails
to censure him, one becomes a slanderer of the Law and will
fall into the hell of incessant suffering."23
Even a man of great wisdom, if he sees such a person and
fails to speak out, will fall into the depths of the hell
of incessant suffering, and as long as that hell shall endure,
he will never escape.
I, Nichiren, fearing these admonitions
of the Buddha, accordingly accused all those throughout
the nation who were deserving of it, and more than once
I was condemned to exile or to the death penalty. Believing
that my past offenses had now been eradicated and that I
was blameless of any fault, I left Kamakura to take up residence
in this mountain, and since then seven years have passed.
Let me describe this mountain. In Japan
there are seven marches, and it is in the march called the
Takaido, which is made up of fifteen provinces. Within these
is the province of Kai, where there are three village districts
called Iino, Mimaki and Hakiri, and it is in the one called
Hakiri. It is a remote mountain region that stretches over
an area of more than twenty ri in the northwestern
part of the district.
The northern part is Mount Minobu, the
southern, Mount Takatori, the western, Mount Shichimen,
and the eastern, Mount Tenshi. They are like boards set
up on all four sides. Around the outside of this area run
four rivers, the Fujigawa running north to south and the
Hayakawa running west to east at the rear of the area, and
before the area the Hakirigawa, which runs west to east,
and its tributary, which has a waterfall and is called the
Minobugawa. You might suppose that Eagle Peak had been moved
from central India and set down here, or that Mount Tien-tai
had been brought from China.
In the midst of these four mountains and
four rivers is a flat area no broader than the palm of a
hand, and here I have built a little hut to shield me from
the rain. I have peeled bark off trees to make my four walls,
and wear a robe made of the hides of deer that died a natural
death. In spring I break off ferns to nourish my body, and
in autumn I gather fruit to keep myself alive. But since
the eleventh month of last year the snow has been piling
up, and now, when we are into the first month of the new
year, it goes on snowing. My hut is seven feet in height,
but the snow is piled up to a depth of ten feet. I am surrounded
by four walls of ice, and icicles hang down from the eaves
like a necklace of jewels adorning my place of religious
practice, while inside my hut snow is heaped up in place
Even in ordinary times people seldom come
here, and now, with the snow so deep and the roads blocked,
I have no visitors at all. So at the moment I am atoning
for the karma that destines me to fall into the eight cold
hells and, far from attaining Buddhahood in this present
life, I am like the cold-suffering bird. I no longer shave
my head, so I look like a quail, and my robe gets so stiff
with ice that it resembles the icy wings of the mandarin
To such a place, where friends from former
times never come to visit, where I have been abandoned even
by my own disciples, you have sent these vessels, which
I heap with snow, imagining it to be rice, and from which
I drink water, thinking it to be gruel. Please let your
thoughts dwell on the effects of your kindness. There is
much more I would like to say.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-seventh day of the first month
in the third year of Koan (1280)
Reply to Akimoto Taro Hyoe
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 3.
- See Sowing, maturing and harvesting in Glossary.
- Two islands: See p. 293, n- 39.
- According to the Muryoju Sutra, the pure land
of Amida Buddha is located in the western region of the
universe. The other nine directions are north, south,
east, northwest, northeast, southeast, southwest, up and
- This refers to the exiles to Izu and Sado.
- Ninety human sovereigns: The successive emperors from
the first emperor Jimmu (r. 660 -585 B.C.) through the
ninetieth emperor Kameyarna (r. 11259-1274)
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 10. It reads: "I have preached
various sutras, and among those sutras the Lotus is the
- This statement is found in hishijashin ron.
- This statement is found in his annotation on the Soshitsuii
- The Zen sect asserts that the essence of Buddhism is
transferred from mind to mind rather than via the sutras.
- This statement appears in Shan-tao's Gojo raisan.
- This statement appears in Tao-ch'o's Anraku shu.
- Rulers of the three dynasties: King Chou (c. 186 century
B.C.), the last ruler of the Yin dynasty, King Chieh (c.
17-16th century B.C.), the last ruler of the Hsia dynasty,
and King Yu (d. 771 B.C.), the last ruler of the Western
Chou dynasty. The three kings doted on their consorts
to the detriment of their official duties, leading to
the downfall of their dynasties.
- A rephrasing of a passage in the Hokke Mongu
Ki, vol. 9.
- The "three robes" and the "begging bowl"
symbolize the austere life of a monk. These were the only
possessions permitted to a monk.
- Nehangyo Sho, or Commentary on the Nirvana Sutra,
by Chang-an. The full passage reads: "He who injures
or brings confusion to the Buddhist Law is an enemy of
the Law. if one befriends another person but lacks the
mercy to correct him, he is in fact his enemy."
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 13.
- Emphasis here is placed on the importance of refuting
slander and avoiding the offense of complicity in slander.
Even though one does not commit slander oneself, if one
either fails to rebuke members of one's family who slander
the Law or acts in concert with slanderers, one will be
subject to the same fate as they.
- Source unknown. A similar passage is found in the Bommokyo
- Here the Daishonin cites examples that describe the
bodhisattva austerities practiced by Gyobo Bonji and Sessen
Doji; such practices, teaches the Daishonin, not only
bring no benefit to the people of the Latter Day of the
Law, but have no power to prevent people from slandering
- Nehangyo Sho, Vol. 12.
- Lotus Sutra, chap. 10.
- Source unknown. A similar passage is found in the Hokekyo
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 7.