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2022年 05月 21日

90, Thoughts on the Nun O’ama

Reply to the nun O’ama.’ Autograph: In the collection of Chomyo-ji Temple, Kyoto (latter part of letter).

We can't count the number of people who have abandoned their faith.

Among them were many women. They abandoned their faith due to fear of the world, distrust of Nichiren, and their own uncertainty.

One of them was nun O’ama.

Nichiren's parents received financial support from her, and Nichiren was able to be active thanks to her support. At first, she also worshiped Nichiren.

However, she abandoned her faith in Nichiren after the great hardships she endured at the mouth of the dragon and the exile to Sado Island. She seemed to be a strong believer, but once Nichiren fell on hard times, she became unsteady.

When Nichiren was fifty-four years old, he sent a letter to a woman named nun Nii-ama, who was married to the O’ama's family. This was the year after he left Sado Island for Koshu.

Unlike the nun O'ama, nun Nii-ama did not retreat when he was exiled to Sado Island, but barely maintained her faith in the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren gave her the principal image of the Lotus Sutra, but did not give it to O’ama. He told Nii-ama about his feelings.

“I have received the bag of sea laver that you sent. I would also like to express my appreciation for the offering of sea laver from the nun O’ama.

This area is called Mount Minobu. Suruga Province lies to the south, and it is more than a hundred ri from the coast at Ukishimagahara1 in that province to this mountain in the district of Hakiri in Kai Province. The route is more difficult than ten times the distance on an ordinary path. The Fuji River, the swiftest in all Japan, runs from north to south. High mountains rise to the east and west of this river, forming a deep valley where huge rocks stand about everywhere like tall folding-screens. The waters of the river rush through the valley like an arrow shot through a tube by a powerful archer. The river is so swift and rocky that sometimes a boat is smashed to pieces as it travels along the banks or attempts to cross the stream. Coming through this dangerous place, you arrive at a large mountain called the peak of Minobu.

To the east stands the peak of Tenshi; to the south, Takatori; to the west, Shichimen; and to the north, Minobu. It is as though four towering folding-screens had been set up. Climbing these peaks, you see a vast stretch of forest below, while going down to the valleys, you find huge rocks lined up side by side. The howls of wolves fill the mountains, the chatter of monkeys echoes through the valleys, stags call plaintively to their does, and the cries of cicadas sound shrill. Here spring flowers bloom in summer, and trees bear autumn fruit in winter. Occasionally you see a woodcutter gathering firewood, and those who visit from time to time are friends of old. Mount Shang where the Four White-Haired Elders retired from the world, and the deep recesses in the mountains where the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove3 secluded themselves, must have been like this place.

Climbing the peak, it looks as if seaweed were growing there, but instead you find only an expanse of ferns. Going down to the valley, you think surely it must be laver growing there, but it is only a dense growth of parsley.

Though I have long since ceased to think about my home, seeing this laver brings back many familiar memories, and I am saddened and find it hard to bear. It is the same kind of laver I saw long ago on the shore at Kataumi, Ichikawa, and Kominato. I feel an unwarranted resentment that, while the color, shape, and taste of this laver have remained unchanged, my parents have passed away, and I cannot restrain my tears.

But enough of this. I have been asked to inscribe a Gohonzon for nun O’ama, and I am troubled about it. The reason is as follows. This Gohonzon was never mentioned in the writings of the many Tripitaka masters who traveled from India to China, or in those of the priests who journeyed from China to India. All the objects of devotion ever enshrined in the temples throughout India are described without exception in The Record of the Western Regions, The Biography of Jion, and The Transmission of the Lamp. Nor have I found it mentioned among the objects of devotion of the various temples that were described by those sages who traveled from China to Japan, or by those wise men who went from Japan to China. Since the daily records of countless temples, such as Gangō-ji and Shitennō-ji, the first temples in Japan, and many histories, beginning with The Chronicles of Japan, name them without omission, the objects of devotion of those temples are clearly known, but this Gohonzon has never been listed among them.

People say in doubt, “It was probably not expounded in the sutras or treatises. That is why the many wise men have neither painted nor carved images of it.” However, the sutras are before their very eyes. Those who so doubt should examine whether or not it is found in the sutras. It is wrong to denounce this object of devotion merely because it was never painted or carved in previous ages.

 For example, Shakyamuni Buddha once ascended to the heaven of the thirty-three gods to fulfill his obligations to his deceased mother. But because of the Buddha’s transcendental powers, with the exception of the Venerable Mokuren, no one in the entire land of the whole world was aware of it. Thus, even though Buddhism is before their very eyes, if people lack the proper capacity, it will not be revealed, and if the time is not right, it will not spread. This is a principle of nature. It is as if, for instance, the tides of the ocean were ebbing and flowing in accordance with the time, or the moon in the heavens were waning and waxing.

 Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, treasured this Gohonzon in his heart from the infinite past, and even after he appeared in this world, he did not expound it until more than forty years after his first preaching. Even in the Lotus Sutra he did not allude to it in the earlier chapters of the theoretical teaching. He began things in the “Treasure Tower” chapter, he revealed it in the “Life Span” chapter, and he brought things to a close in the “Supernatural Powers” and “Entrustment” chapters.

 Bodhisattvas such as Manjushrī, who lives in the Golden-colored World, Maitreya, in the palace of the Tushita heaven, and Kanzenon, on Mount Potalaka, and Bodhisattva Medicine King, who is a disciple of the Buddha Sun Moon Pure Bright Virtue, all vied with one another in asking the Buddha’s permission to propagate this Gohonzon in the Latter Day of the Law, but he refused. The Buddha declared: “Those bodhisattvas are known for their excellent wisdom and profound learning, but since they have only recently begun to hear the Lotus Sutra, their understanding is still limited. Moreover, they would not be able to endure the great difficulties of the latter age. My true disciples I have kept hidden in the depths of the earth for infinite years. I will entrust it to them.” So saying, the Buddha summoned Bodhisattva Jogyo and the other bodhisattvas in the “Bodhisattvas Emerging from the Underground” chapter and entrusted them with the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

 Then the Buddha said: “Listen carefully. You must not propagate it in the first millennium of the Former Day of the Law or in the second millennium of the Middle Day following my death. In the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, slanderous monks will fill the land of the whole world, so that all the heavenly gods will demonstrate their rage, comets will appear in the sky, and the earth will quake like the movement of huge waves. Innumerable disasters and calamities, such as drought, fires, floods, gales, epidemics, famine, and war, will all occur at once. The people of the whole world will don armor and take up bows and staves, but since none of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, or benevolent deities will be able to help them, they will all die and fall like rain into the hell of incessant suffering. At that very time, rulers can save their countries and the people be freed from calamities and in their next life escape the great fires of hell if they embrace and believe in this great mandala of the five characters.” Though Nichiren is not Bodhisattva Jogyo, believing that his already having attained a general understanding of this teaching is perhaps the design of that bodhisattva, he has been declaring it for these more than twenty years.

 When one resolves to propagate it, one will meet difficulties, as the sutra states: “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Tathagata is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?” and “It will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe.” Of the three powerful enemies predicted in the sutra, the first indicates, in addition to the sovereign, district and village stewards, lords of manors, and the ordinary populace. Believing the charges leveled by the second and third enemies, who are priests, these will curse or vilify the votary of the Lotus Sutra or attack him with swords and staves.

 Though it is a remote place, T0jo District in Awa Province is like the center of Japan because Sun Goddess resides there. Though in ancient times she lived in Ise Province, when the emperors came to have deep faith in Hachiman and the Kamo shrines, and neglected the Sun Goddess, she got angry. At that time, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the general of the right, wrote a pledge and ordered Aoka no Kodayū to enshrine her in the outer shrine of Ise. Perhaps because Yoritomo fulfilled the goddess’s wish, he became the shogun who ruled all of Japan. This man then decided on Tojo District as the residence of the Sun Goddess. That may be why this goddess no longer lives in Ise but in Tōjō District in Awa Province. This is similar to the case of Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, who, in ancient times, resided at Dazaifu, but later moved to Mount Otokoyama in Yamashiro Province, and now lives at Tsurugaoka in Kamakura, in Sagami Province.

 Out of all the places in the entire land of the world, Nichiren began to propagate this correct teaching in Tōjō District, in Awa Province, in Japan. Accordingly, the Tojo’s land steward became my enemy, but his clan has now been half destroyed.

 Because nun O’ama was insincere and foolish, sometimes she believed, but other times she doubted. She was not set in her mind. When Nichiren incurred the wrath of the ruler, she discarded the Lotus Sutra. This is what I meant before, when I told her whenever we met that the Lotus Sutra is “the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.”

 If I present her with this Gohonzon for her salvation because I am greatly indebted to her, the demon’s ten daughters will certainly think I am a very partial monk. On the other hand, if just as the sutra says I do not give it to a person without faith, even if I am not partial, perhaps, not realizing her own fault, she will harbor a grudge against me. I have explained the reason for my refusal in detail in a letter to lord Suke. Please send the letter and show it to her.

 You are of the same family as O’ama, but you have demonstrated the sincerity of your faith. Because you have often sent offerings to me, both to the province of Sado and to this province, and because your resolve does not seem to wane, I will give you the Gohonzon. But I still worry whether you will maintain your faith to the end, and feel as if I were treading on thin ice or facing a drawn sword. I will write to you again in more detail.

 Even though it is said that not only O’ama regrets, but in Kamakura, among the 999 out of 1,000 people who gave up their faith when I was arrested, perhaps since public feeling has now abated, there are some who regret as well, they are not like her to me. No matter how sorry I feel for her, since flesh is no substitute for bone, I will always intend to talk about her disobedience to the Lotus Sutra and how her wishes will not be fulfilled.

Sincerely yours,


The sixteenth day of the second month

Reply to nun Nii-ama.”

Though Nichiren gave the principal image to nun Nii-ama, he said that his heart was on thin ice, and he felt uneasy as if he was facing a sword. Nii-ama supported Nichiren of Sado Island and sent offerings to the mountain of Kai. Even so, he says, he still does not feel secure. It is so difficult to maintain strong faith.

 He does not give the principal image to nun O’ama to whom he had been indebted.

Bones are faith, and flesh is past favors. Bones cannot be replaced by flesh. He cannot bend his beliefs in exchange for a past favor.

 The nun does not understand this logic. She felt that she had taken good care of him since she was a child, and she felt that she had been betrayed.

This Buddhism was no longer Nichiren's alone. He even said that if he listened to O’ama's wish, he would be condemned by the guardian deity of the Lotus Sutra, the ten daughters of demons.

Nichiren also knew that even if he gave her the Gohonzon, she would eventually turn away again. O'ama was so easily distracted by trivial events.

However, Nichiren did not forget her, to whom he was greatly indebted.

In a letter to his hometown Kiyosumi-ji Temple, he wrote of his passionate feelings for O’ma. The following year, at the age of fifty-five, Nichiren wrote a letter to Seicho-ji Temple, his hometown.

“The nun O’ama is a pessimistic woman. If people threaten her, she will think that they are right. However, she had become a person who did not know the meaning of gratitude, and it would be pitiful for her to fall into the evil path in her later life. Another reason is that she is a person who has helped my parents and others, and I pray to save her future at all costs.”

 However, in spite of his efforts, she did not seem to be converted to the correct Law.

Nichiren sent her a very severe message. This was in his later years, at the age of fifty-nine.

“The wardens of hell and King Enma are ten feet in height, their faces daubed with vermilion, their eyes like the sun or moon, with teeth like the prongs of a rake and fists like boulders. When they walk, the ground shakes as though it was a boat afloat on the ocean; their voices are like peals of thunder rumbling forth. In such a situation, you will surely not be able to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. You are not a disciple of mine. Report to me of what is truly in your heart and then I will listen.

 Please pray for yourself like splitting your head and blaming your body to the fullest. Think that these must be prayers for your next life. From now on, you must firmly resolve for your next life!



The twentieth day of the ninth month

Reply to nun O’ama”

 He said that the monster of King Enma would appear at the time of her death.

 The prongs of a rake is a farming implement that is pulled by oxen or horses to break up the soil. The blade is attached to the side handle in the shape of a comb. It is rarely seen in Japan today, but was used until recently. It is said that King Enma's teeth are like this sharp blade.

Nichiren told her to pray with pain, as if she was trying to break her skull. This was a time when belief in gods and Buddha was much stronger than it is today. The nun must have trembled when she read this. He was not only indebted to nun O'ama, but also to her, and he was very strict in his efforts to bring her to Buddhahood.

by johsei1129 | 2022-05-21 11:16 | LIFE OF NICHIREN | Trackback | Comments(0)
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