On Persecutions Befalling the Buddha
- Shonin Gonanji -
Now in the second year of Koan (1279), it is twenty seven years since I first proclaimed the true teaching
at Seicho-ji temple. It was noon on the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month in the fifth year of Kencho (1253), on the southern
side of Jibutsu-do Hall in the Shobutsu-bo of the temple, located in Tojo Village. Tojo is now a district, but was then a
part of Nagasa District in Awa Province. Here is located what was the second, but is now the country's most important shrine
to the Sun Goddess, built by Minamoto no Yoritomo, founder of the Kamakura shogunate. The Buddha fulfilled the purpose of
his advent in a little over forty years; T'ien-t'ai took about thirty years, and Dengyo, some twenty years. I have repeatedly
spoken of the indescribable persecutions they suffered during those years. For me it took twenty-seven years, and the persecutions
I faced during this period are well known to you all.
The Lotus Sutra reads, "Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how
much worse will it be in the world after his passing?" Shakyamuni Buddha suffered innumerable persecutions: For ninety days
he was forced to eat horse fodder; a huge boulder was dropped on him, and though it missed him, his foot was injured and bled;
a group of eight priests led by Sunakshatra, outwardly acting as the Buddha's disciples but in spirit siding with Brahmans,
watched every moment of the day and night for a chance to kill him; King Virudhaka killed great numbers of the Shakya clan;
King Ajatashatru had many of Shakyamuni's disciples trampled to death by wild elephants and subjected the Buddha to a series
of severe tribulations. Such were the persecutions that took place "in the Buddha's lifetime."
In the more than two thousand years "after his passing, "no one, not even Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T'ien-t'ai
or Dengyo, encountered any of the still greater persecutions predicted to occur. No one can say they were not votaries of
the Lotus Sutra, but if they were, why did none shed even a drop of blood, as did the Buddha, nor suffer even greater trials?
Could the sutra's predictions be false and the Buddha's teachings nothing but great lies?
However, in these twenty-seven years, Nichiren was exiled to the province of Izu on the twelfth day
of the fifth month in the first year of Kocho (1261), was wounded on the forehead and had his left hand broken on the eleventh
day of the eleventh month in the first year of Bun'ei (1264). He was to be executed on the twelfth day of the ninth month
of the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), but was instead exiled to the province of Sado. In addition, many of his disciples were
murdered or executed, banished or heavily fined. I do not know whether these trials equal or surpass those of the Buddha.
Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo came nowhere near me in what they endured. Had it not been for the advent of
Nichiren in the Latter Day of the Law, the Buddha would have been a great liar and the testimony given by Taho and all the
other Buddhas would have been false. In the twenty-two hundred and thirty years since the Buddha's death, Nichiren is the
only person in the whole world to fulfill the Buddha's prophecy.
In the Latter Day of the Law of both Shakyamuni and the Buddhas before him, the rulers and people who
despised the votaries of the Lotus Sutra seemed to be free from punishment at first, but eventually they were all doomed to
fall. Among those who attacked Nichiren, there were at first no signs of punishment. During these twenty-seven years, the
Buddhist gods who vowed to protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra--Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, and the
Four Heavenly Kings--did little to help Nichiren. But by now they have realized in terror that unless they fulfill the oath
they swore before the Buddha, they will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Consequently they are now earnestly carrying
out their vow by punishing those who attacked the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The deaths of Ota Chikamasa, Nagasaki Tokitsuna
and Daishin-bo, for example, who were all thrown from their horses, can be attributed to their treachery against the Lotus
Sutra. There are four kinds of punishment: general and individual, conspicuous and inconspicuous. The massive epidemics, nationwide
famines, insurrections and foreign invasion suffered by Japan are general punishment. Epidemics are also inconspicuous punishment.
The tragic deaths of Ota and the others both conspicuous and individual.
Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion and never succumb to threats from anyone. The lion
fears no other beast, nor do its cubs. Slanderers are like howling jackals, but Nichiren's followers are like roaring lions.
Hojo Tokiyori and Hojo Tokimune, the past and present regents, pardoned me when they found I was innocent of the accusations
against me. The regent will no longer take action on any charge without confirming its validity. You may rest assured that
nothing, not even a person possessed by a powerful demon, can harm Nichiren, because Bonten, Taishaku, the gods of the sun
and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings, Tensho Daijin and Hachiman are safeguarding him. Strengthen your faith day by day and month
after month. Should you slacken even a bit, demons will take advantage.
We common mortals are so foolish that we do not fear the warnings in the sutras or treatises so long
as they do not concern us directly. But you must be fully prepared for the havoc Hei no Saemon and Adachi Yasumori, in their
outrage, will wreak upon us. People are now being sent to Tsukushi to fight the Mongols; consider yourself in the same position
as those who are on their way or who are already at the battlefield. So far our believers have not experienced anything so
terrible. The warriors in Tsukushi, however, now face a dreadful fate, and if they are killed in battle, they will be doomed
to fall into hell. Even if we too should meet such severe trials, we will attain Buddhahood in the future. Our present tribulations
are like moxa cautery, minor pain necessary to remove greater pain.
You need not frighten those peasant believers from Atsuhara, but you should encourage them in every
way possible. Tell them to be prepared for the worst. Do not expect good times, but take the bad times for granted. If they
complain of hunger, tell them about the hell of starvation. If they grumble that they are cold, tell them of the eight freezing
hells. If they say they are frightened, explain to them that a pheasant sighted by a hawk, or a mouse stalked by a cat, is
as desperate as they are. I have repeated the foregoing almost daily for the past twenty-seven years. Yet with Nagoe no Ama,
Shofu-bo, Noto-bo, Sammi-bo and others, who are so cowardly, close-minded, greedy, and filled with doubt, it is like pouring
water on lacquerware or slicing at thin air.
There was something very strange about Sammi-bo. However, I was afraid that any admonition would be
taken by the ignorant as mere jealousy of his wisdom, and therefore, I refrained from speaking out. In time his wicked ambition
led to treachery, and finally to his doom during the Atsuhara Persecution. If I had scolded him more strictly, he might have
been saved. I did not mention this before because no one could understand it. Even now the ignorant will say that I am speaking
ill of the deceased. Nevertheless, I mention this for the benefit of other believers. I am sure that those who persecuted
the believers at Atsuhara were frightened by the fate of Sammi-bo.
Even if others are clad in armor and instigate, my disciples should never do the same. If there are
some who prepare for fighting, please write to me immediately.
With my deep respect,
The first day of the tenth month
This letter should be kept by Shijo Kingo.