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The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin - Page 529

LETTER TO THE LAY PRIEST ICHINOSAWA

the earth shakes and heaves in anger, great comets fill the sky, and huge fires break out all over the land. Yet these persons fail to perceive their error and instead praise themselves, saying, “We unceasingly recite the Nembutsu, and in addition we build Amida halls and pay honor to Amida Buddha!”

Such actions may seem wise, but in fact they are worthless. Suppose there is a young couple. The husband is so in love with his wife, and the wife thinks so tenderly of her husband, that they completely forget about their parents. As a result, the parents go about in thin clothing, while the bedroom of the young couple is warm and snug. The parents have nothing to eat, while the young couple’s stomachs are full. Such young people are committing the worst kind of unfilial conduct, and yet they fail to see that they are doing wrong. A wife who would deliberately turn her back on her own mother and a husband who would go against his own father— are they not guilty of an even graver offense?

Amida Buddha dwells in a land that is located a hundred thousand million worlds away and has not the slightest connection with this saha world. However one may claim [that such a connection exists], there is no basis for it. It is like trying to mate a horse with an ox, or a monkey with a dog.

I, Nichiren, am the only person who is aware of this. If I should begrudge my life and thus refrain from speaking out, not only would I be failing to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to my country, but I would also be acting as an enemy of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings. On the other hand, I knew from the outset that, if I set aside my fears and declared things exactly as they are, I would be sentenced to death. And even if I should escape the death penalty, I would surely be condemned to exile. So great is the debt of gratitude I owe

the Buddha, however, that I have not let others intimidate me, but have spoken out.

Just as I anticipated, I was exiled no less than twice. During the second of these sentences, in the summer of the ninth year of the Bun’ei era (1272), I was sent to a place called Ichinosawa in Ishida Village in the province of Sado. The headman and his men in the region to which I had been assigned, in both official and unofficial matters, treated me with greater malice than if I had been a lifelong enemy of their parents or a foe from some previous existence. But the lay priest of the lodgings5 where I was put up, as well as his wife and servants, though they seemed fearful at first, privately came to look on me with pity, perhaps because of some bond formed between us in a previous existence.

The rations of food that I received from the headman were very scanty. And since I had a number of disciples with me, we often had no more than two or three mouthfuls of rice to a person. Sometimes we portioned out the food on square trays made of bark, and sometimes we simply received it in the palms of our hands and ate it then and there. The master of the house in private treated us with compassion. Though outwardly he appeared to be fearful of the authorities, at heart he had great pity for us, something that I will never forget in any future lifetime. At that time, he meant more to me than the very parents who gave me birth. However great the obligations I incurred to him, I must endeavor to repay them. Even more, I must not fail to do what I had promised him.

The lay priest felt deeply concerned about the life to come and had for a long time devoted himself to chanting the Nembutsu. Moreover, he had constructed an Amida hall and dedicated his lands in offering to Amida Buddha. He was also afraid of how the steward