A Warning against Begrudging One's Fief
Your letter dated the twenty-fifth of last month arrived at the Hour of the Cock (5:00-7:00 P.M.) on the twenty-seventh of the same month. On reading your lord's official letter [ordering you to submit a written oath renouncing your faith in the Lotus Sutra] and your own pledge not to write such an oath, I feel that your resolve is as rare as seeing the udumbara plant in blossom and as admirable as the fragrance of budding red sandalwood.
Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and Mahakashyapa were great arhats who had acquired the three insights and the six supernatural powers. Moreover, they were bodhisattvas who, by hearing the Lotus Sutra, had attained the first stage of development and the first stage of security, achieving the perception of non-birth and non-extinction. Yet even these people deemed themselves unable to endure the great persecutions that attend the propagation of the Lotus Sutra in the saha world during the Latter Day of the Law, and declined to accept the task. How then could a common mortal in the Latter Day, who has not yet eradicated the three categories of illusion, become a votary of this sutra?
Even though I, Nichiren, may have been able to withstand attacks by sticks and staves and tiles and stones, vilification and persecution by the sovereign, how could lay believers, who have wives and children and are ignorant of Buddhism, possibly do the same? They might have done better never to have taken faith in the Lotus Sutra in the first place. Should they prove unable to carry their faith through to the end, upholding it only for a short time, they will be mocked by others. So thinking, I had felt pity for you. Yet, during the repeated persecutions I suffered as well as throughout my two sentences of exile, you demonstrated unshakable resolve. That alone was wondrous enough, but now, despite your lord's threats, you have written a pledge to carry through with your faith in the Lotus Sutra even at the cost of your two fiefs. I can find no words sufficient to praise you.
The Buddha doubted whether even Bodhisattvas Fugen and Monju could undertake the propagation of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age, and he therefore entrusted the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo to Jogyo and the other three leaders of the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Now, pondering the meaning of this affair, I wonder if Bodhisattva Jogyo could have lodged himself in your body in order to assist me, Nichiren. Or perhaps it may be the merciful design of the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.
The fact that those of your lord's retainers [who resent you] are growing more presumptuous must surely be the work of Ryokan and Ryuzo. Should you write an oath discarding your faith, that crowd will only become more arrogant than before, and they will certainly mention it to everyone they meet. Then all my disciples in Kamakura will be hounded until not a one remains.
It is the nature of common mortals not to know what awaits them in the future. Those who know it well are called worthies or sages. Passing over examples from the past, I will cite one from the present. Lord Hojo Yoshimasa relinquished both his domains and became a lay priest. I hear that, in the end, he abandoned all his many estates, forsook his sons and daughters as well as his wife and secluded himself from the world. You have neither sons nor brothers upon whom you can rely. All that you have is your two fiefs. This life is like a dream. One cannot know if he will live until tomorrow. Even if you should become the most wretched of beggars, never disgrace the Lotus Sutra. Since life is so short in any event, you should not weep over your fate. As you yourself wrote in your letter, you must act and speak without the least servility. Fawning or flattery will only do you more harm. Even if your fiefs should be confiscated or you yourself driven out, think that it is due to the workings of the Ten Goddesses, and wholeheartedly entrust yourself to them.
Had I, Nichiren, not been exiled but remained in Kamakura, I would certainly have been killed in the battle. In like manner, because remaining in your lord's service might prove to be to your detriment, Shakyamuni Buddha may well have contrived matters [so that you are forced to leave].
I have written a petition on your behalf. There are several priests [who are my disciples in Kamakura], but as they are too unreliable, I was thinking of sending Sammi-bo. However, since he has still not recovered from his illness, I am sending this other priest in his stead. Have either Daigaku Saburo, Taki no Taro or Lord Toki make a clean copy of the petition when he has time, and present it to your lord. If you can do so, this matter of yours will be resolved. You need not be in great haste; rather, you should band solidly together with your fellow believers. As for the others, let them clamor against you as they will. Then, if you can submit the petition, news of it may spread throughout Kamakura, and perhaps even reach the regent himself. This will mean misfortune changing into fortune.
I explained to you the teachings of the Lotus Sutra some time ago. Matters of minor consequence arise from good, but a matter of great import assuredly means that disaster will change into great fortune. If people read this petition, the enemies of Buddhism will be exposed. You have only to state briefly, "I do not intend to leave my lord's clan and return my fief of my own will. Yet, if my lord should confiscate it, I will regard it as an offering to the Lotus Sutra and an occasion for rejoicing." Say this in a scathing tone.
You must in no way behave in a servile fashion toward the magistrate. Tell him, "This fief of mine is not one which my lord bestowed upon me for any ordinary reason. He awarded it to me because I saved his life with the medicine of the Lotus Sutra when he fell seriously ill. If he takes it from me, his illness will surely return. At that time, even if he should apologize to me, Yorimoto, I will not accept it." Having had your say, take your leave in an abrupt manner.
Under no circumstances should you attend any gatherings. Maintain a strict guard at night. Be on close terms with the night watchmen, and request their assistance. You should always be in company with them. If you are not ousted this time, the chances are nine to one that your fellow samurai will make an attempt on your life. No matter what, do not die shamefully.
The seventh month in the third year of Kenji (1277), cyclical sign honoto-ushi