Reverend Annen; the Supervisor of Priests Jokan;13 the Administrator of Priests Danna; the sage of former times Eshin and several hundred others [of the Tendai school], as well as several hundred of Kobos disciples including Jitsue, Shinzei, and Shinga;14 and also the other great teachers and sages of former times of the eight schools and ten schools all these men were like so many suns, moons, and stars appearing in succession. During the passage of four hundred years and more, not a single person among them has ever questioned this assertion [of the three great teachers]. In the light of what sort of wisdom do you criticize this?
In the light of the above points, this shows, my followers, that you had better cut short your sleep by night and curtail your leisure by day, and ponder this! You must not spend your lives in vain and regret it for ten thousand years to come.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-third day of the eighth month
To TokiI have received one string of coins. I hope all those who are serious in their resolve will gather in one place and listen to this letter.
This letter was written to Toki Jonin, a learned and dedicated disciple who lived in Shimosa Province. In it Nichiren Daishonin stresses the extreme seriousness of the offense of slander and also the importance of embracing the supreme Buddhist teaching. The letter is dated simply the twenty-third day of the eighth month, and though it is generally thought to have been written in the first year of Kenji (1275) at Minobu, no firm conclusion has been reached in this regard. Other opinions are that the Daishonin wrote it in 1276 or even in 1273 while he was still on Sado Island.
In the Daishonins teaching, rather than adherence to a specific code of conduct, ones fundamental posture toward the Mystic Law, or ultimate reality, determines ones happiness or unhappiness in life. A person who seeks and awakens to the ultimate truth within will attain enlightenment, while one
who remains in ignorance of it or even slanders it will continue to be bound by suffering. Hence the Daishonins emphasis on exclusive commitment to the Lotus Sutra, which teaches the direct attainment of Buddhahood for all people.
In the last part of this letter, the Daishonin raises a question that had crossed many peoples minds: on the basis of what sort of insight does he dare to criticize such eminent teachers of the past as Kobo, Jikaku, and Chisho? However, instead of answering this question directly, he simply says, You had better cut short your sleep by night and curtail your leisure by day, and ponder this! This passage, from which the letter takes its name, suggests that the most important task of our human existence is to seek out and uphold the correct teaching leading to enlightenment.