Gosho Study #12: Reply to the Lay Priest Takahashi
When all others hate me, the fact that you have placed even a bit of trust in me and, moreover, have come all the way here to visit me, cannot be ascribed to the karma of your present life alone. Surely we must share some bond from a previous existence! I am much distressed to hear that your illness has become so serious. . . Moreover the Lotus Sutra states that it is “good medicine for the ills of the people of Jambudvipa.” The people of this world of Jambudvipa are suffering from illness, but they have the medicine of the Lotus Sutra. Now in your case the three requirements are already present, so how could you fail to recover? But if you have doubts. I am powerless to help you. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge- kyo. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-1. p 610)
Striving with Conviction and Boundless Hope
This letter was written at Mount Minobu in July 1275. Its recipient, who was also known as Takahashi Rokuro Hyoe, resided in Kajima in Fuji District, Suruga Province (present-day Fuji City in central Shizuoka Prefecture). His wife, the lay nun Myoshin, was the aunt of Nichiren’s later successor Nikko Shonin, who had introduced Takahashi to Nichiren Buddhism.
Nichiren sent this heartfelt letter to the lay priest Takahashi, a loyal disciple who was suffering from a serious illness, to encourage and reassure him. Nichiren’s towering conviction opens up a path of limitless hope.
Nichiren’s followers, united with him in spirit, had weathered great persecutions and striven triumphantly alongside him. One of those dedicated followers, the lay priest Takahashi, was now suffering from illness and battling valiantly to overcome it. With the deepest sympathy, Nichiren prayed for his recovery, took up his writing brush, and entrusted this letter to Nikko Shonin and others to deliver.
To the lay priest Takahashi, he writes: “When all others hate me, the fact that you have placed even a bit of trust in me and, moreover, have come all the way here [to Mount Minobu] to visit me, cannot be ascribed to the karma of your present life alone. Surely we must share some bond from a previous existence!” (WND-1, p 610). I’m sure that these moving words of Nichiren must have warmed his disciple’s heart.
We can see Nichiren here imparting boundless hope to the lay priest Takahashi, assuring him that mentor and disciple share a bond transcending this lifetime, and therefore certain to continue on into future existences as well, their lives forever connected.
In “Reply to the Lay Priest Takahashi”, Nichiren writes: “In your case, the three requirements are already present, so how could you fail to recover?” (WND-1, p 610). The “three requirements”, here, can be interpreted as meaning the Buddha, the Law, and the votary of the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha is Shakyamuni, whose wish was to cure the grave ills of all living beings in the Latter Day. The Law is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the good medicine for all of Jambudvipa, the entire world. And the votary is Nichiren, who rose into action as the votary of the Lotus Sutra to propagate this beneficial medicine and thereby lead all people to enlightenment. This, Nichiren tells Takahashi, should be a source of immense reassurance and confidence.
Ultimately, however, everything depends on the disciple’s faith. As Nichiren warns the lay priest Takahashi: “But if you have doubts, I am powerless to help you” (WND-1, p610)
Faith is another word for conviction. A person with conviction continues to move forward and is always filled with hope. A person with conviction is victorious. The closing portion of Nichiren’s letter to the lay priest Takahashi contains the message: “You are a person of strong faith, who has shown utter trust in Nichiren, no matter what others might say in criticism!”
Buddhist humanism means always standing on the side of the people. This is the true path of Nichiren Buddhism expressed in the “Letter to the Lay Priest Takahashi”. Working for the happiness of others and sincerely valuing the person right in front of us require having absolute faith in the positive potential inherent within each individual. That faith and conviction are the driving force for building a network of hope and opening the way to brighter future.