Letter to Myomitsu Shonin
- Myomitsu Shonin Goshosoku -
I have received the five kan of blue-duck coins
The first of the five precepts is not to take life, and
the first of the six paramitas is that of almsgiving.
The ten good precepts, the two hundred and fifty precepts,
the ten major precepts and all the other rules of conduct
begin with the prohibition against the taking of life.
Every being, from the highest sage on down to the smallest
mosquito or deer fly, holds life to be its most precious
possession. To deprive a being of life is to commit the
gravest kind of sin.
When the Buddha appeared in this world, he made compassion
for living beings his basis. And as an expression of compassion
for living beings, not to take life and to provide sustenance
for the living are the most important precepts.
In providing another with sustenance, one obtains three
kinds of benefits. First, one sustains one's life. Second,
one brings color to one's face. Third, one gains strength.
"To sustain one's life" means that one is born
in the human or heavenly realms and receives the karmic
reward of long life. When he becomes a Buddha, he manifests
himself as a Dharma-body Tathagata, whose body is as vast
Because he "gains strength," having been born
in the human or heavenly realms, he becomes a person of
virtue and influence, attracting many followers. When he
becomes a Buddha, he manifests himself as a bliss-body Tathagata,
dwelling on a lotus pedestal where he shines like the full
moon when it appears in a clear sky on the fifteenth night
of the eighth month.
And because "he brings color to his face," having
been born in the human or heavenly realms, he acquires the
thirty-two features and becomes as lovely and striking as
a lotus flower. When he becomes a Buddha, he displays himself
as a manifested-body Tathagata, like Shakyamuni Buddha.
If we inquire into the origin of Mount Sumeru, we find
that it began with a single speck of dust, and likewise
the great ocean began with a single drop of dew. One added
to one becomes two, two becomes three, and so on to make
ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand,
or an asogi. Yet one is the mother of all.
As for the beginning of Buddhism in the country of Japan:
after the seven generations of heavenly gods and the five
generations of earthly gods, the hundred reigns of human
sovereigns began, the first of whom was called Emperor Jimmu.
In the time of the thirtieth sovereign following Jimmu,
Emperor Kimmei, the Buddhist scriptures were introduced
to Japan from the kingdom of Paekche, along with a statue
of Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, as well as priests
Then Prince Shotoku, the son of Emperor Yomei, began to
study the Buddhist writings. He had a copy of the Lotus
Sutra brought from China, wrote a commentary on the text,
and endeavored to propagate its teachings.
Later, in the time of the thirty-seventh sovereign, Emperor
Kotoku, the Administrator of Monks Kanroku introduced the
Sanron and Jojitsu sects from the kingdom of Silla to Japan.
And during the same period the priest Dosho introduced the
Hosso and Kusha sects from China, and a priest named the
Preceptor Shinjo introduced the Kegon sect.
In the reign of the forty-fourth sovereign, Empress Gensho,
a holy man from India introduced the Dainichi Sutra,
and in the time of the forty-fifth sovereign, Emperor Shomu,
the priest Ganjin came from China, introducing the Ritsu
sect to Japan. At the same time, he brought with him copies
of the Hokke Gengi, Hokke Mongu, Maka Shikan,
Jomyo Sho, and other works of the T'ien-t'ai school.
But he did not propagate the teachings of the Shingon and
Hokke [Tendai] schools.
In the reign of the fiftieth sovereign, Emperor Kammu,
there was a young priest named Saicho, who was later to
be known as the Great Teacher Dengyo. Before going to China,
he spent fifteen years studying on his own the writings
and commentaries of the Shingon and Tendai schools. Later,
in the seventh month of the twenty-third year of the Enryaku
era (804), he sailed for China. He returned to Japan in
the sixth month of the following year, and thereafter instructed
several dozen learned priests of the seven major temples
of Nara in the teachings of the Tendai and Shingon sects.
Four hundred years have passed since then. In all, it has
been more than seven hundred years since Buddhism was first
introduced to Japan. During that time, there have been persons
who urged the populace to call upon the name of Amida, to
call upon the name of Dainichi, or to invoke the name of
Shakyamuni. But there has never been anyone who urged them
to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
And this does not apply to Japan alone. In India, in the
thousand years following the death of the Buddha, there
were great scholars such as Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Ashvagosha,
Nagarjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu who worked to propagate
Buddhism throughout the five regions of India. And in the
first several hundred years after Buddhism was introduced
to China, people such as Kashyapa Matanga, Chu-fa-lan, the
Learned Doctor Kumarajiva, Nan-yueh, T'ien-t'ai and Miao-lo
wrote commentaries and expounded the teachings of the sutras.
But none of these persons ever urged that the daimoku of
the Lotus Sutra be chanted in the same manner as the name
of Amida. They only chanted it themselves, or, when lecturing
on the Lotus Sutra, the lecturer himself alone recited it.
The teachings of the eight sects and the nine sects differ
from one another, yet generally speaking, we find that in
the majority of cases, the founders and leaders of these
sects recited the name of Amida. Next in number were those
who recited the name of Bodhisattva Kannon, and next those
who invoked the name of Shakyamuni Buddha, followed by those
who called upon the name of Dainichi, Yakushi, or others.
But for some reason there were none who chanted the daimoku
of the Lotus Sutra, the very heart and core of the Buddha's
entire lifetime of teachings.
You should inquire very carefully into the reason why this
was so. A renowned physician, for example, though he discerns
the causes of all kinds of illnesses as well as the relative
efficacy of various medicines, nevertheless refrains from
indiscriminately applying the most powerful medicine but
instead employs other medicines, depending upon the nature
of the illness. Thus perhaps it was because, during the
two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days of the
Law following the death of the Buddha, the sickness of delusion
had not yet become critical, and therefore no one urged
that the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the finest
medicine in all the Buddha's lifetime of teachings, be applied.
But now we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, and people
are all suffering from grave illness. This illness can hardly
be cured by such minor medicines as invocations to Amida,
Dainichi or Shakyamuni.
Though the moon is beautiful, the full splendor of its
light can only be seen in autumn. Though the cherry blossoms
are lovely, they open only in spring. All things are regulated
by the time. And since that is so, may we not suppose that,
during the two thousand years of the Former and Middle Days
of the Law, the time had not yet come for the daimoku to
However, it is the messengers of the Buddha who propagate
his teachings. And these disciples of the Buddha have different
doctrines that they received from him. Thus, the scholars
who appeared during the thousand years of the Former Day
of the Law and the teachers who appeared during the thousand
years of the Middle Day of the Law were in most cases men
who had been entrusted with Hinayana or provisional Mahayana
doctrines or with the theoretical teaching of the Lotus
Sutra or other ancillary doctrines. Bodhisattva Jogyo, who
is entrusted with the daimoku, the core of the essential
teaching, had not yet made his advent in the world.
But now he will appear in the Latter Day of the Law and
propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo to all
the nations and to all the people of the world. Surely it
will spread in the same way that the invocation of Amida's
name has spread throughout Japan at the present time.
I, Nichiren, am not the founder of any sect, nor am I a
latter-day follower of any older sect. I am a priest without
precepts, neither keeping the precepts nor breaking them.
I am an ordinary creature like an ox or a sheep, divorced
from both the possession of wisdom and the absence of it.
Why did I first begin to chant as I do? Bodhisattva Jogyo
is the one destined to make his advent in this world to
propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. But before
he had even appeared, I began, as though speaking in a dream,
hardly knowing what I was doing, to chant the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,
and so I chant them now. In the end, is this a good thing
I do, or a bad thing? I do not know, nor can anyone else
tell for certain.
But when I reverently open the Lotus Sutra and peruse it,
I see that even the bodhisattvas Monju, Miroku, Kannon and
Fugen, who had reached the stage of togaku, were
scarcely able to uphold so much as a single phrase or verse
of this sutra, because the sutra itself states that it can
"only be understood and shared between Buddhas."
The Kegon Sutra represents the first exposition
of the sudden teaching preached immediately following the
Buddha's enlightenment, a sutra embodying the complete and
perfect teaching, yet it was entrusted to the four bodhisattvas,
including Dharma Wisdom, to expound. The Hannya sutras,
though not on the same level as the Kegon Sutra,
nevertheless represent the loftiest among the other sutras
that the Buddha had preached thus far. And yet Subhuti was
the one entrusted with the task of expounding them.
Only the Lotus Sutra represents the wonderful teaching
preached directly from the golden mouth of Shakyamuni Buddha,
who is perfectly endowed with the three bodies. Therefore
even the bodhisattvas Fugen and Monju were hardly able to
expound so much as a single phrase or verse of it. How much
more difficult then must it be for us, who are no more than
common mortals living in the Latter Day of the Law, to embrace
in our own persons even one or two words of this sutra!
Because the founders of the various sects read and lectured
on the Lotus Sutra, their respective disciples all assumed
that their own teacher had grasped the heart of the Lotus
Sutra. However, if we look carefully into the essence of
the matter, we find that the Great Teacher Tz'u-en read
the Lotus Sutra while making the Jimmitsu Sutra and
the Yuishiki Ron his teachers, and the Great Teacher
Chia-hsiang read the Lotus Sutra while making the Hannya
sutras and the Chu Ron his teachers. Men like Tu-shun
and Fa-tsang read the Lotus Sutra while making the Kegon
Sutra and the Jujubibasha Ron their teachers. And
Shan-wu-wei, Chin-kang-chih and Pu-k'ung read the Lotus
Sutra while making the Dainichi Sutra their teacher.
All these men thought that they had read the Lotus Sutra.
But in fact they had not read so much as a single phrase
or verse of it.
In the end, as the Great Teacher Dengyo put it, "Even
though he praises the Lotus Sutra, he destroys its heart."
They were like non-Buddhist believers who, though they read
the Buddhist sutras, interpret them to be the same as the
non-Buddhist teachings; or like bats which, in their blindness,
mistake day for night. Or they were like a red-faced man
who, looking into a clear mirror, supposes that the whole
mirror has turned red, or like a round-faced man who, seeing
his reflection in a narrow sword blade, thinks that his
face has become long and narrow.
But I, Nichiren, am different from such persons. I firmly
uphold the teaching that the Lotus Sutra is supreme among
all the sutras that the Buddha "has preached, now preaches
and will preach." Moreover, I chant the daimoku, which
is the heart and core of the entire sutra, and I urge others
to do likewise. [When one does so,] he will be like mugwort
growing in a field of hemp or wood marked with a carpenter's
inking line. Though the mugwort and the wood may not be
straight to begin with, they will as a matter of course
In the same way, one who chants the daimoku as the Lotus
Sutra teaches will never have a twisted mind. For you must
know that, unless the mind of the Buddha enters into our
body, we cannot in fact chant the daimoku.
The Buddhist teachings that have been disseminated by other
persons are in all cases those that they have learned and
received from their respective teachers. It is like the
case of the fiefs possessed by the shogun's immediate vassals
of the estates administered by the stewards in the various
provinces. Though their lands may measure no more than one
or two cho, they in all cases received them through
the favor of the late shogun. How much more indebted to
him are persons whose holdings measure a hundred cho,
a thousand cho, a whole province or two whole provinces!
One who carries on the doctrines of a good teacher is called
a worthy man. One who realizes the truth for himself without
the aid of a teacher is called a sage. In the lands of India,
China and Japan since the passing of the Buddha, there have
been two sages. They were T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo. These two
men deserve to be called sages.
They also deserve to be called worthy men. The Great Teacher
T'ien-t'ai carried on the doctrines of Nan-yueh; in that
sense he was a worthy man. But he also realized the supreme
vehicle of Buddhahood by himself at the place of meditation;
in this sense he was a sage.
Similarly, the Great Teacher Dengyo received instruction
in the Shikan teachings and the great precepts of perfect
and immediate enlightenment from his teachers Tao-sui and
Hsing-man. In that sense he was a worthy man. But even before
he journeyed to China, while still in Japan, he had already
understood and mastered all the doctrines of the Shingon
and Shikan sects without the aid of a teacher, and had come
to realize that the wisdom of the Tendai sect surpassed
that of the six sects or the seven sects. In this sense
he was a sage.
So it is that one of the Confucian classics declares: "Those
who are born with an understanding of this are the highest."
(By "highest" is meant the sage.) "Those
who study and thereby reach this understanding are the next."
(By "next" is meant the worthy man.) And one of
the Buddhist sutras contains the passage, "In my religious
practices, I am without the aid of a teacher."
Shakyamuni, the lord of teachings, is the foremost sage
of this saha world. T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo were both
sages as well as worthy men. Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, Asanga,
Vasubandhu, Lao Tzu and Confucius were all both sages and
worthy men, either of the Hinayana teachings, the provisional
Mahayana teachings, or of non-Buddhist teachings; however,
none of them was a sage or worthy man of the Lotus Sutra.
Now I, Nichiren, am neither a sage nor a worthy man; I
neither adhere to the precepts nor am I without precepts;
I neither possess wisdom nor lack it. Nevertheless, I was
born some 2,220 years after the passing of the Buddha, in
the last five-hundred-year period, when the daimoku of the
Lotus Sutra is destined to spread. And before any other
person of the various sects--whether here in Japan or in
the far-off lands of India and China--could begin the invocation
of the daimoku, I began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in
a loud voice and have continued to do so for more than twenty
During that time, I have been cursed and beaten, and at
times have sustained injury. Twice I have been exiled, once
I was condemned to death, and the other great trials that
I have suffered are too numerous to mention; I have been
like a soybean plunked into a large pot of boiling water
or a big fish in a tiny puddle.
The Lotus Sutra says: "Since hatred and jealousy toward
this sutra abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha,
how much worse will it be in the world after his passing!"
It also states: "In the world at that time the people
will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult
to believe." And it says: "There will be many
ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us,"
and "They will attack us with swords and staves, and
with rocks and tiles,... again and again we will be banished."
If I, Nichiren, had not been born in the land of Japan,
then these passages of the sutra would have been mere words
on the Buddha's part--empty of all significance. They would
have been like blossoms that open but form no fruit, or
like thunder that rumbles but never ushers in rain. These
golden words of the Buddha would have been in vain, and
the Lotus Sutra, which speaks honestly, would have been
found to incorporate great falsehoods. When I consider all
this, it seems to me that I must be the equal of the sages
T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo, and that I stand above Lao Tzu and
In this entire country of Japan, I am the only person who
has chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I am like the single speck
of dust that marks the beginning of Mount Sumeru or the
single drop of dew that spells the start of the great ocean.
But then two people, three people, ten people, a hundred
people will join in chanting it, until it spreads to one
province, two provinces, and all the sixty-six provinces
of Japan, and reaches the two islands of Iki and Tsushima
as well. Those persons who have spoken slanderously of me
will in time chant in the same way; and everyone from the
ruler on down to the multitude of common people will, as
described in the Jinriki chapter of the Lotus Sutra,
chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a single voice. Though the
trees may desire to be still, the wind will not cease to
blow; though we may wish spring to linger, it must give
way to summer.
Though the people of Japan think highly of the Lotus Sutra,
because of their animosity toward me, the priest Nichiren,
they refuse to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. But when the invaders
from the great kingdom of the Mongols strike once or twice
again as they did at Iki and Tsushima, attacking and killing
the men and taking the women prisoner, battling their way
as far as the capital Kyoto and the city of Kamakura, seizing
the sovereign himself, along with his high ministers and
hundred officials, flinging them in the dirt before their
oxen and horses, and kicking and violently abusing them--how
then will the people of Japan be able to keep from chanting
In the past, I was struck several times in the face with
the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra, but I felt no resentment
at it. In fact, I was actually delighted. For to be attacked
in the manner described in the Fukyo chapter, to
suffer assault as predicted in the Kanji chapter,
to is a great honor indeed.
But how vexing such attacks must be to Bonten, Taishaku,
the gods of the sun and moon and the Four Heavenly Kings,
who inscribed an oath in the presence of the Buddha that
they would not permit evil men to strike the votary of the
Lotus Sutra! It would be no small matter if those who slander
me were to incur no punishment from Heaven in their present
body. So those deities [who fail to punish them] will not
only be destroyed throughout past, present and future, but
even now are surely being called upon to account to the
Buddha for their actions. And when that happens, it will
be no fault of Nichiren's! Rather, by siding with those
priests who slander the Law, they are summoning disaster
In view of all this, your sincerity in sending a gift of
five stings of blue-duck coins whenever the opportunity
arises truly entitles you to be known as one who propagates
the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. As first one person,
then two persons, then a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred
thousand and then all the people throughout the country
come to chant the daimoku, before you know it their blessings
will accumulate in your person. Those blessings will be
like the drops of dew that gather to form the great ocean
or the specks of dust that pile up to become Mount Sumeru.
The ten demon daughters in particular have vowed to protect
those who recite the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra; it would
follow from this that these goddesses must look upon you,
Myomitsu Shonin, and your wife as a mother looks upon an
only child. They will prize you as a yak cherishes its own
tail, and watch over you day and night. How reassuring!
There is much more that I would like to say, but I do not
have time to go into detail. Please explain these things
carefully to your wife. I do not write these words merely
The more gold is heated in the flames, the brighter will
be its color; the more a sword is whetted, the sharper it
will become. And the more one praises the blessings of the
Lotus Sutra, the more his blessings will increase. Bear
in mind that the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra
contain only a few passages elucidating the truth, but a
great many words of praise.
The fifth day of the intercalary third month
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 5, page