Letter to the Priests of Seicho-ji
Let us congratulate each other on the coming
of the New Year. Since you paid me no visit last year, I
am worried whether something unfortunate may have occurred.
If you have a chance to call on me, would you borrow for
me the Jujushin ron,1
Nikyo ron3 and other
commentaries of the Shingon sect from the priest Ise-ko!
I need them in order to refute the Shingon priests who have
for some time been clamoring against me. Bring with you
also volumes one and two of the Maka shikan. I would also
appreciate the Toshun4
and the Fusho ki5
if they are available. Borrow the Shuyo shu6
which is owned by Kanchi-bo, the disciple of Enchi-bo. Moreover,
I have heard people say that he is in possession of other
relevant writings. Please borrow them as well, and tell
him that I will return them as soon as possible. This year
the question of which Buddhist teachings are right and which
are wrong will definitely be resolved.
Tell Joken-bo, Gijo-bo7
and other priests on my behalf: "Nichiren has often
been on the verge of being killed. Twice he was exiled and
once almost beheaded. This is not because of any worldly
wrongs on his part. [As a youth,] he received great wisdom
from the living Bodhisattva Kokuzo. He had been praying
to the bodhisattva to become the wisest person in Japan.
The bodhisattva must have taken pity on him, for he presented
him with a great jewel as brilliant as the morning star,
which Nichiren tucked away in his right sleeve. Thereafter,
on perusing the entire body of sutras, he was able to discern
in essence the relative worth of the eight sects8
as well as of all the scriptures."
The Shingon sect is especially blameworthy,
because it attempts to destroy the Lotus Sutra. It is essential
to refute Shingon, so in preparation I first attacked the
errors of the Zen and Nembutsu sects. I have good reason
for my accusation. I will reserve discussion of the rights
or wrongs of Buddhist schools in India and China for some
other time, but for Japan, all the people have discarded
the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra and are therefore
without exception destined to fall into the evil paths.
This is because, at each and every temple, the Shingon sect
invariably exists side by side with the Hokke [Lotus] sect9
just as a shadow follows the body. Thus, to the correct
practice of the Lotus Sutra is added the Shingon practice
of the eighteen paths,10
and to its performance of penitence is joined that based
on the Amida Sutra. And in conferring titles upon priests
of the Tendai sect, the Shingon procedure predominates,
while that of the Lotus Sutra is relegated to a secondary
In reality, the sutras of Shingon belong
to the provisional teachings previous to the Lotus Sutra
and are inferior even to the Kegon or the Hannya sutras.
Yet Jikaku and Kobo were confused on this point and held
that the Shingon sutras were equal or even superior to the
Lotus Sutra. The ceremony for "opening the eyes"11
of a newly-made image of the Buddha is therefore conducted
with the mudra of the Buddha-eye Goddess and the mantra
of Dainichi Buddha.12
As a result, all the wooden and painted images of the Buddha
in Japan have been rendered soulless and sightless and,
in consequence, have been possessed by the heavenly devil,
bringing ruin upon their own worshipers. This is why the
imperial court [in Kyoto] is about to perish. Now the evil
teaching of Shingon has made its appearance in Kamakura
and threatens to destroy all of Japan.
The Zen and Pure Land sects also hold extremely
perverted views. I knew that if I declared this, it would
certainly cost me my life. Yet I was determined to requite
the favor of Bodhisattva Kokuzo. With this in mind, on the
twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in the fifth year
of Kencho (1253), I pointed out the errors of the various
sects for the first time to a small audience including Joen-bo13
on the southern side of the image hall in Dozen-bos14
quarters in Seicho-ji temple, located in Tojo Village in
Awa Province. For more than twenty years since then, I have
persisted in my declaration without retreating a step. For
this reason, I was at times driven from my dwelling and
at other times exiled. In former days Bodhisattva Fukyo
was beaten with staves; now Nichiren must face the sword.
All the people in Japan, both wise and
foolish, from the sovereign down to the common people, say
that the priest Nichiren is no match for the scholars, teachers,
great masters and eminent priests of old. I waited for the
right time to dispel their distrust of me. The time finally
came when great earthquakes occurred in the Shoka era, followed
by the appearance of a huge comet in the Bunei era.
Observing these, I made this prediction: Our country
will suffer two terrible disasters, internal strife and
foreign invasion. The former will take place in Kamakura,
in the form of internecine strife15
among the descendants of the Gon no Tayu. The latter may
come from any direction, but that from the west16
would be the most violent. This latter will occur solely
because of the fact that all the Buddhist sects in Japan
are erroneous, and Bonten and Taishaku will therefore command
other countries to attack us. So long as the country refuses
to heed me, it will certainly be defeated, no matter whether
it has a hundred, a thousand or even ten thousand generals
as brave as Masakado,17
Toshihito,20 or Tamura.21
If these words of mine prove false, then the people are
free to believe in the distorted views of the Shingon, Nembutsu
and other sects." This is the prediction that I made
known far and wide.
I especially warn the priests on Mount
Kiyosumi. If they treat me with less respect than they show
their own parents or the three treasures, they will become
wretched beggars in this life and will fall into the hell
of incessant suffering in the next. I will explain why.
The villainous Tojo Saemon Kagenobu22
once hunted the deer and other animals kept by Seicho-ji
and tried to force the priests in the various lodging temples
to become Nembutsu believers. At that time I pitted myself
against Tojo and supported the lord of the manor. I composed
a fervent oath which read, If the two temples, Kiyosumi
and Futama, should come into Tojos possession, I will
discard the Lotus Sutra! Then I tied it to the hand
of the object of worship,23
to which I prayed continuously. Within a year, both temples
were freed from Tojos grasp. Certainly Bodhisattva
Kokuzo will never forget this, so how can those priests
who make light of me avoid being forsaken by the heavenly
gods? Hearing me say this, the more foolish of you may think
that I am invoking a curse upon you. That is not so, however.
I am warning you simply because it would be a pity if you
should fall into the hell of incessant suffering after your
Let me say a few words about Ama Gozen,
the wife of the lord of the manor.24
Being a woman, and a foolish one at that, she must have
been turned against my teaching by threats from others.
I pity her, for, having forgotten her debt of gratitude,
she will fall into the evil paths in her next existence.
Despite that, however, she extended great favor to my parents,
so I am praying that I may somehow be able to save her from
The Lotus Sutra is nothing other than a
scripture that reveals that Shakyamuni became a Buddha in
the distant past of gohyaku-jintengo. It also predicts that
Shariputra and the other disciples will become Buddhas in
the future. Those who do not believe the sutra will fall
into the hell of incessant suffering. Not only did Shakyamuni
himself declare all this, but Taho Buddha also testified
to its truth and the Buddhas from the ten directions extended
their tongues by way of verification. Furthermore, the Lotus
Sutra states that the votary of this sutra will receive
the protection of the bodhisattvas as numerous as the dust
particles of a thousand worlds who emerged from the earth,
the bodhisattvas Monju and Kannon, Bonten, Taishaku, the
gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and the
ten demon daughters. Therefore, there is no other way to
attain Buddhahood than by practicing the Lotus Sutra, for
it is the only scripture which reveals things past and future.
I have never seen Tsukushi,25
nor do I know anything about the barbarians [of the west].
Yet, the prediction I made concerning the Mongols in light
of the entire body of the sutras has already come true.
Hence, when I say that you will all fall into the hell of
incessant suffering because of your ingratitude, how can
my words prove false! You may be safe for the time being,
but wait and see what happens later. All of Japan will be
reduced to the same miserable state in which the islands
of Iki and Tsushima now find themselves. When vast numbers
of Mongol hordes close in on the province of Awa, those
of you priests who cling to prejudiced views will cringe
in terror and finally fall into the hell of incessant suffering,
saying, Now I know that the priest Nichiren was right.
What a pity! What a pity indeed!
The eleventh day of the first month
To the priests of Seicho-ji in the province
This letter is to be read aloud by the
priests Sado26 and Suke
Ajari before the statue of Bodhisattva Kokuzo for all the
priests of Seicho-ji to hear.
- Jujushin Ron: "Treatise on the Ten Stages of Mind."
written around 830 by Kobo, founder of the Japanese Shingon
sect. In this work, he defined ten stages of the mind's
development. He placed a follower of the Lotus Sutra in
the eighth stage, and a follower of the Kegon Sutra in
the upper ninth. Ultimately be placed a follower of the
Shingon teaching in the upper tenth stage, because such
a person has obtained the secret teaching. This treatise
consists of ten volumes and asserts the supremacy of the
Dainichi Sutra, the basic sutra of the Shingon sect.
- Hizo Hoyaku: A three-volume summary of the Jujushin
- Nikyo Ron: "A comparison of Exoteric and Esoteric
Buddhism," Kobo's writing. The full title is Ben
Kemmitsu Nikyo Ron, also called the Kemmitsu Nikyo Ron.
In this work, Kobo compares esoteric teachings with exoteric
teachings and asserts the supremacy of the former over
the latter. This work also explains each of the ten stages
- Toshun: A commentary on T'ien-t'ai's Hokke Mongu (Words
and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra) written by Chih-tu
of the T'ang dynasty.
- Fusho Ki: Miao-lo's commentary on the Hokke Mongu.
- Shuyo Shu: Generally, a collection of the fundamental
teachings of a Buddhist sect. Here it means a collection
of the Tendai doctrines.
- Joken-bo and Gijo-bo: Nichiren Daishonin's senior priests
at Seicho-ji temple. On April 28, 1253, at Seicho-ji temple,
the Daishonin denounced the established sects and declared
the founding of his Buddhism, thus incurring the wrath
of Tojo Kagenobu, the local lord of that district. Joken-bo
and Gijo-bo protected the Daishonin, helping him escape
arrest by Tojo's warriors and leave the temple safely.
- Eight sects: See p. 25, footnote 66.
- Hokke sect: Here, the Tendai sect. See also p. 231,
- Shingon practice of the eighteen paths: Reference to
Shingon mandala worship. The Womb World mandala and the
Diamond World mandala each include nine central objects
of worship. The Shingon followers join their fingers in
eighteen ways and meditate on these eighteen objects of
- Ceremony for opening the eyes: Ceremony for imbuing
a newly-made Buddha image with a spiritual property, thus
making it an object of worship.
- Mudra and mantra: See p. 83, footnote 46.
- Joen-bo: A priest at Renge-ji temple at Hanabusa in
Tojo Village. Renge-ji temple is thought to have been
a branch temple of Seicho-ji.
- Dozen-bo (d. 1276): Chief priest of Seicho-ji temple,
under whom the Daishonin first studied Buddhism. The Daishonin
never forgot his first teacher, and after the latter's
death wrote "On Requital for the Buddha's Favor"
as an expression of his gratitude.
- Internecine strife: In February 1272, Hojo Tokisuke,
an elder half brother of the regent Hojo Tokimune, attempted
a rebellion but failed.
- That from the west: Both in 1274 and in 1281, Mongol
forces attacked the southwestern part of Japan.
- Masakado (d. 940): A distinguished warrior of the Taira
clan who wielded power in eastern Japan.
- Sumitomo (d. 941): Fujiwara no Sumitomo. A military
commander of the Fujiwara clan who subdued a band of pirates
- Sadato (1019-1062): Abe no Sadato, head of a powerful
family in eastern Japan.
- Toshihito: Fujiwara no Toshihito. A distinguished warrior
of the Fujiwara family in the Heian period (796-1185).
Little is known about him.
- Tamura (758-811): Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, a military
leader who obtained the Imperial commission of Sei-i Tai
Shogun (Generalissimo for Subjugation of the Barbarians)
and established the
authority of the Imperial court in the northeastern area
of Japan around the early ninth century.
- Tojo Saemon Kagenobu: The local lord of Tojo District
in Awa Province, who was an ardent believer in Nembutsu.
- The object of worship: A statue of Shakyamuni Buddha.
- The nun in the family of the lord of the manor: "The
lord of the manor" refers to Hojo Tomotoki, younger
brother of Hojo Yasutoki, the third regent of the Kamakura
government. The nun, his wife, was called Nagoe no Ama
or Oama. After the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, she chose
to forsake her faith in the Daishonin's Buddhism.
- Tsukushi: The ancient name for Kyushu, the southern
part of Japan, where Mongol forces attacked after sweeping
across the islands of Iki and Tsushima.
- Sado (1253-1314): Another name for Niko. He was one
of the six closest disciples of Nichiren Daishonin known
as the six senior priests. Details concerning Suke Ajari
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 2, pp. 263-269.
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