GUIDANCE
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The Embankments of Faith
BACKGROUND:

This Gosho is dated September 3, 1275, the second year after Nichiren Daishonin's return from exile in Sado. It is addressed to the wife of Abutsu-bo, who was known as Sennichi-ama.

This reply is to a question Sennichi-ama asked concerning the degrees and effects of slander against true Buddhism. The concept of slander here implies the slandering of the Mystic Law existing in one's own life rather than the criticism of a particular doctrine. To slander the Lotus Sutra means to slander the Mystic Law revealed in it. Hence slander leads to the degradation of human life itself, the denial of its inherent dignity. Slander in this sense is any thought, word or deed which denies another's Buddha nature, and thus the inherent dignity of his life. That is why its effects are so serious. The Daishonin sternly admonishes against slander, and urges believers to consider it their responsibility to remove another's evil and to lead him to enlightenment. He encourages Sennichi-ama to cherish the supreme aspiration for happiness in her next lifetime, to solidify "the embankments of her faith" and to continue her quest for greater understanding of true Buddhism.

The Embankments of Faith

In your letter, you asked how the effect varies according to the degree of slander against Buddhism. To begin with, the Lotus Sutra was taught to lead all people to enlightenment. However, only those who have faith in it attain enlightenment. Those who slander it fall into the hell of incessant suffering. As the sutra states, "One who refuses to take faith in this sutra and instead slanders it immediately destroys the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world....After he dies, he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering."

There are many degrees of slander. Even among those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, very few uphold it steadfastly both in mind and in deed. But those who do will not suffer serious retribution even if they have committed minor offenses against Buddhism. Their strong faith expiates their sins as surely as a flood extinguishes tiny fires.

In the Nirvana Sutra, Shakyamuni states, "If even a good priest sees someone slandering the Law and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him, or to punish him for his offense, then that priest is betraying Buddhism. But if he takes the slanderer severely to task, drives him off or punishes him, then he is my disciple and one who truly understands my teachings."

his admonition forces me to speak out against slander in spite of the persecutions I face, for fear that I might become an enemy of Buddhism if I did not.

However, slander can be either minor or serious, and there are times when we should overlook it rather than attack it. The adherents of the Tendai and Shingon sects slander the Lotus Sutra and should be refuted. But without great wisdom it is very difficult to differentiate correctly between their doctrines and the teaching which Nichiren expounds. Therefore, at times, you might be well advised to refrain from attacking them, just as I did in the Rissho Ankoku Ron.

Whether or not we reproach another for his slander, it is difficult to prevent him from committing a grave sin. If we see or hear a person commit slander and make no attempt to stop him even though he could be saved, we betray our great gifts of sight and hearing and so commit an act of utter mercilessness.

Chang-an wrote, "If you befriend another person but lack the mercy to correct him, you are in fact his enemy." The consequences of this offense are extremely difficult to erase. The most important thing is to continually strengthen your compassion to save others from their own slanderous nature.

When a person's slanders are minor, he may sometimes need to be admonished, but at other times this is unnecessary, for he may be able to correct his faults without being told. Reprove a person for acting against Buddhism when necessary so that both of you can forestall the consequences of slander. Then you should forgive him. The point is that even minor slanders can lead to serious ones, and then the effects he must suffer would be far worse. This is what Chang-an meant when he wrote, "To remove a man's evil is to be like a parent to him."

There are examples of slander even among Nichiren's disciples and believers. I am sure that you have heard about Ichinosawa Nyudo. In his heart he is one of Nichiren's disciples, but outwardly he still remains in the Nembutsu sect. Therefore, I am very concerned about his next life and have presented him with the ten volumes of the Lotus Sutra.

Strengthen your faith now more than ever. Anyone who teaches the truths of Buddhism to others is bound to incur hatred from men and women, priests and nuns. Let them say what they will. The most important thing is for you to entrust your life to the golden teachings of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha, T'ien-t'ai, Miao-lo, Dengyo and Chang-an. This is the way to practice correctly according to the Buddha's teachings. The Lotus Sutra reads, "If one teaches this sutra for even a moment in the dreaded age to come, he will receive support from all the heavens." This passage explains that in the Latter Day when evil people stained by the three poisons will prevail, anyone who embraces the true teaching for even a short time will be aided and supported by the heavens.

Now you should cherish the great desire to attain enlightenment for happiness in your next life. If you doubt or slander even in the slightest, you will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Suppose there is a ship which sails on the open sea. Even if the ship is stoutly built, should it leak even a bit, the passengers are certain to drown together. Even though the embankment between rice fields is firm, if there is only one tiny crack in it, the water will never be contained. You must bail the sea water of doubt and slander out of the ship of your life and solidify the embankments of your faith. If a believer's offense is slight, forgive him and lead him to obtain benefits. If it is serious, admonish him to strengthen his faith so that he can expiate the sin.

You are a very unusual woman since you asked me to explain the effects of various degrees of slander. You are every bit as praiseworthy as the Dragon King's daughter when she said, "I will reveal the Mahayana doctrine to save people from suffering." The Lotus Sutra reads, "To ask about the meaning of this sutra will indeed be difficult." There are very few people who inquire about the meaning of the Lotus Sutra. Always be determined to denounce slanders against true Buddhism to the best of your ability. It is indeed remarkable that you should be helping me reveal my teachings.

Respectfully,

Nichiren

The third day of the ninth month in the first year of Kenji (1275)

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, page 157.