By Reverend Shotsu Nomura, February 2016 Oko Ceremony
Today, I would like to conduct a lecture on “Reply to Kyo’o” that was written on 15 August 1273. This Gosho letter is very important for our faith and practice, especially as Nichiren Daishonin mentioned the Gohinzon in this Gosho, so I hope you will listen carefully for your faith and practice.
I wish to talk about various points regarding this Gosho letter. It includes the following five points.
1. Kyo’o’s father, Shijo Kingo, who had strong faith and practice.
2. Hosshaku Kempon, that is, Discarding the Provisional Identity and Revealing the True Identity at the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, and the inscription of Goshonzon.
3. Nichiren Daishonin’s Gohonzon is an unprecedented Object of Worship in the world.
4. The great power of Gohonzon.
5. Faith and practice are needed for one’s prayer to be answered.
I hope you will grasp your important mission as a Nichiren Shoshu believer through this Gosho.
“Just when I was longing to hear once again from you, the messenger, whom you kindly sent, arrived. Since this is the time for me Nichiren, your Gokuyo money is important and more in the Mountain and Ocean. Concerning the matter about Kyo’o Gozen, I have been praying to the gods of the sun and moon for him through the day and night. Please always keep with you and hold on to the Omaori Gohonzon that I bestowed upon you on the other day. No one learned about this Gohonzon in the Former and Middle Day of the Law, moreover the inscription of this had vanished.
Today’s lecture is the first lecture on this Gosho letter, “Reply to Kyo’o”, so I would like to talk about the background of this Gosho.
As I mentioned, this Gosho letter was written on 15 August 1273 and sent to Kyo’o, who was born in 1272. In ancient Japan, when one was born, people would count his age as one year old. Then at the beginning of the following year, one’s age will increase by one year. So this letter was sent to the 2-year-old baby Kyo’o, but he was actually one year old according to our current way of counting age. As you know, a one-year-old baby cannot read a letter and cannot understand it at all. It is thus natural to think that this letter was sent to kyo’o’s parents, Shijo Kingo abd Nichigen-nyo. When we consider the content of this Gosho we can understand that Nichiren Daishonin was giving the guidance to Kyo’o’s mother, Nichigen-nyo. So it can be said that this letter was written mainly for Nichigen-nyo.
There is no document that talks about the gender of Kyo’o Gozen or whether Kyo’o Gozen was a boy or a girl. When we think about the name, Kyo’o which means the “King of Sutra”, we may think that the sounds like boy’s name. Therefore, I think “King of Sutra” is not appropriate to the girl. Not only this, but the following is also stated in Kyo’o Gozen Gosho’: “Kyo’o is a dutiful child who will succeed in this lifetime.” (Gosho p.635) In ancient Japan, the custom was that only a man, and not a woman, could succeed and take over the headship of a family. So I believe Kyo’o wa a boy.
Some people might think that the honorific title “gozen” is for woman so Kyo’o Gozen should be a girl. However, when Nichiren Daishonin named Nanjo Tokimitsu’s first son, Hiwaka, He actually wrote his name as Hiwaka Gozen in his letter written in 1280. So I will talk about Kyo’o as a boy.
Before Kyo’o was born, Shijo kingo and his wife had a daughter who was born in 1271. When she was born, Nichiren Daishonin named his daughter Tsukimaro. It is stated in “Tsukimaro Gozen gosho”:
“I received the message that your baby was born. Congratulations! It is especially significant that today is the eight day of the month. Not only have you had your baby, but on such an auspicious day! The fulfilment of your wish is now complete, just like the tide at the high water mark or the blossoming of flowers in the spring meadow. Thus, I have wasted no time in giving her a name. Please call her Tsukimaro.” (Gosho 462)
So, there is a possibility that the name Kyo’o was also given by Nichiren Daishonin.
I believe that many of you have learnt about the life of Shijo Kingo and know well that he was a wonderful believer of Nichiren Daishonin and sincere practitioner of the Lotus Sutra.
I would like to talk briefly only several key points regarding Shijo Kingo.
1. Shijo Kingo was a Zen believer who embraced Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in 1256. It is said that when Nichiren Daishonin taught the Lotus Sutra in the street of Kamakura, Shijo Kingo was really upset about the Daishonin’s declaring that “Zen sect is the invention of the Devil of Heaven” and went to the Daishonin’s Matsubagayatsu hermitage in order to accuse Nichiren Daishonin. In the course of this, Shijo Kingo was shakubuku and became a strong believer of Nichiren Daishonin. Although Kingo’s father did not have the opportunity to convert, his mother, brothers, sister, wife, sons and daughters all became followers of Nichiren Daishonin.
2. The Tatsunokuchi Persecution occurred in 1271. A Ritsu sect priest Ryokan, who failed in his prayers to bring forth rain, schemed to execute the Daishonin by conspiring with influential people in the government. For the Daishonin, who was about to be beheaded, this event was the greatest persecution in his life time. The Daishonin, who was headed to the place of execution, sent a hurried message to Shijo Kingo. Shijo Kingo, who had run out of his house barefoot, took the bridle of the Daishonin’s horse and while weeping accompanied him to the execution site. Even though he had a wife and children, he was determined to die with Him if the Daishonin were going to be killed. When the executioner raised his sword to behead the Daishonin at the execution site, a strange dazzling flash of light suddenly appeared and the decapitation became impossible. Even when the state authority had used all of its power, they were unable to kill the Original Buddha Nichiren Daishonin. Shijo Kingo was able to witness this mystic moment of the greatest and highest divine event in Buddhism by observing Nichiren Daishonin discarding his transient status and revealing his true identity as the Original Buddha.
3. In February 1272, the Daishonin conferred on Shijo Kingo the famous Kaimoku Sho, “Opening of the Eyes” that reveals the object of worship in terms of the person as Nichiren Daishonin. After receiving it, Shijo Kingo could not wait and visited the Daishonin in Sado around May. At that time a round trip journey to Sado was extremely difficult but he did it because he had strong faith.
4. When NIchiren Daishonin fell ill in 1278, Shijo Kingo prepared some medicine for him and helped him recover. It can be said that Kingo was also the greatest medical practitioner.
5. In 1279 the Atsuhara Persecution broke out. Shijo Kingo gave encouragement to Nichiren Daishonin’s believers and took the role of spreading the Daishonin’s word.
6. In 1280 Shijo Kingo was granted retirement which was his long awaited wish, and led a secluded life in Uchibuna of Yamanashi. From there to the Daishonin’s residence was a mere four or five kilometres. It is thought that Kingo must have visited the Daishonin every day.
As you can see that Shijo Kingo had strong faith and practice and he was actually a person who was called the Votary of the Lotus Sutra by Nichiren Daishonin. Also Shijo Kingo’s wife, Nichigen-nyo, was a wonderful person who had sincere strong faith and supported her husband well.
This Gosho letter, “Reply to Kyo’o”, was written when Nichiren Daishonin was living on Sado Island after the Tatsunokuchi Persecution.
According to the law of that time, there were three kinds of exile: short-, middle- and long-distance. The most severe punishment as an exile. Once a person was sent to this island as an exile, he could not move to any other place until he received permission from the Government. This meant death on this island.
Nichiren Daishonin states in “On the Buddha’s Behaviour”
“As we all know, exiles to this island are seldom able to survive. Even if they do, they never return home.” (Gosho, 1064)
The Daishonin was taken to a small hut, called the Tsukahara Sanmaido, that stood in a field. The hut was located in a place where corpses were abandoned. The roof and walls were full of holes. The snow fell and piled up, never melting away. The Daishonin spent his days there wearing s straw cape to help him endure the cold.
On the other hand, while Nichiren Daishonin was staying in Sado, he wrote more than fifty Goshos, including “The Opening of the Eyes”, “The True Object of Worship”, “The True Entity of Life”, and “The Entity of the Mystic Law”.
Why did Nichiren Daishonin start to write these important Goshos during the severe time on Sado Island? This is because it was really an important time to reveal the True Object of Worship since he had performed Hosshaku Kempon, which was “Discarding the Provisional Identity and Revealing the True Identity”, at the Tatsunokuchi Persecution right before He started to stay on Sado Island.
After this persecution, Nichiren Daishonin commenced inscribing the Gohonzon and wrote many important Goshos that talked about the True Object of Worship. Actually he used many papers to write the important Goshos. You may understand that there was nothing to eat or drink and not enough clothes, but Nichiren needed many papers to write the Gosho. In ancient time, papers were rare and expensive and it was difficult to get them.
Now I would like to explain about the “Reply to Kyo’o”. Nichiren Daishonin states:
“Just when I was longing to hear once again from you, the messenger, whom you kindly sent, arrived. Since this is important and more valuable than any treasure that one can find in the Mountain and Ocean.”
Shijo Kingo visited Sado Island to see Nichiren Daishonin in May 1273. Then about three months later, Shijo Kingo sent Gokuyo money to Nichiren Daishonin through a messenger, and this became the motivation for Nichiren Daishonin to write this letter.
Since Shijo Kingo met Nichiren Daishonin directly three months before that, I believe that he knew what Nichiren Daishonin needed at that time and I think Nichiren Daishonin used this precious Gokuyo money to buy papers, brushes and sumi ink to inscribe Gohonzons and write Goshos. So it can be said that this Gokuyo money really precious and important in the world.
In this passage “this is the time for me Nichiren” refers to the time to reveal and inscribe the Gohonzon that is the true object of worship. If you read Nichiren Daishonin’s Gosho, you may realize that Nichiren Daishonin did not inscribe the Gohonzon before the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. As Nichiren Daishonin had achieved Hosshaku Kempon, that is “Discarding the Provisional Identity and Revealing the True Identity”, at the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, He then started to reveal and inscribe the Gohonzon.
This is an important point that we must keep in our mind, so do not forget that Nichiren Daishonin propagated Daimoku, that is, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo before Hosshaku Kempon and right after Hosshaky Kempon, Nichiren Daishonin started to reveal and inscribe the Gohonzon. This is also very important as after that Nichiren Daishonin started to reveal the teaching of Kaiden, that is, the High Sanctuary. Before the persecution, Nichiren Daishonin did not reveal the teaching of Kaidan. Then Nichiren Daishonin revealed the “Three Great Secret Laws”, which refers to “Honmon-no-Honzon” that is the “True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching”, “Honmon-no-Kaidan” that is a High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching” and “Honmon-no-Daimoku” that is the “Daimoku of the Essential Teaching”.
“Homon-Kaidan-no-Gohonzon” that is the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, which resides in the Head Temple Taisekiji, contains all the significances of the “Three Great Secret Laws” and is the Dai-Gohonzon enshrined at Honmon-no-Kaida.
You may understand that even though Nichiren Daishonin had inscribed many Gohonzons, depending on the Gohonzons, the significances were different. People who have erroneous ideas and who do not know much about Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings well may say that of Nichiren Daishonin’s Gohonzons are the same; I am sure you can refute such erroneous ideas.
When Nichiren Daishonin wrote this “Reply to Kyo’o”, it was the time to start revealing and inscribing the Gohonzons and that was a really important time for Nichiren Daishonin.
Next is about the sentence: “your Gokuyo money is important and more valuable than any treasure that one can find in the Mountain and Ocean”. In this part, Nichiren Daishonin wished to express that “your Gokuyo money is important in the entire world? You may wonder why “Mountain” and “Ocean” have the meaning of the entire world. If you know about the view of the world in the ancient times of India, which was also taught in the Agon Sutra, you can visualize it.
It is complicated but simply put, it can be said that there are three parts in the world. According to it, No.1 is Mt Sumeru, No.2 is the Four Great Oceans and No. 3 is the Four Great Continents. So you can visualize that Nichiren Daishonin was there with important Gokuyo. Even if one looks for such important Gokuyo in Mt Sumeru or in the Four Great Oceans, one cannot find such valuable Gokuyo. When you think about the passage this way, you may realize that Nichiren Daishonin wished to say that, “Your Gokuyo money is important in the entire world”.
Following this, Nichiren Daishonin states:
“Concerning the matter about Kyo’o Gozen, I have been praying to the gods of the sun and moon for him through the day and night. Please always keep with you and hold on to the Omamori Gohonzon that I bestowed upon you on the other day. No one learned about this Gohonzon in the Former and Middle Day of the Law, moreover the inscription of this had vanished.”
The beginning of the above Gosho states: “Concerning the matter about Kyo’o Gozen”. What does “the matter” mean? This “matter” is important for understanding Nichiren Daishonin’s intention.
I would like to conclude my lecture with my prayers for your continued progress in faith and practice.
Thank you very much!
Kaimyo, issue 82, pp.14-18.