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On Itai Doshin

- Itai Doshin Ji -


"On Itai Doshin" was given to Takahashi Nyudo, the uncle of Nikko Shonin. Nikko Shonin was Nichiren Daishonin's closest disciple and immediate successor, and it was through him that Takahashi became the Daishonin's follower. Since he was close to Nanjo Tokimitsu, a retainer of the Hojo clan, and the believers of Atsuhara, his residence was used as a headquarters when the persecutions occurred at Atsuhara in the late 1270's.

The manuscript is dated August 6 but the year is not indicated. It is thought, however, to have been written sometime between 1275 and 1280. The passage, "you demonstrated remarkable faith during the recent incident at Atsuhara," hints at the date. The persecution started in 1275, some time after the first Mongol invasion, and lasted until 1280. The second Mongol invasion occurred in May 1281.

"On Itai Doshin" stresses the importance of unity. The Daishonin's believers were few, a seemingly easy prey to rival religious sects attempting to impede their growth. The Daishonin encouraged his followers to intensify their faith and to develop a unity which no outside force could disrupt. He cited a famous example from Chinese history, where a numerically inferior but staunchly united force emerged victorious over a huge army weakened by disunity.

In July 1260 the Daishonin finished the "Rissho Ankoku Ron," predicting foreign invasion if the nation continued to slander true Buddhism, and all of the Japanese leaders of the time knew about that document and its warning. When the Daishonin wrote "On Itai Doshin," he was certain that a second Mongol invasion was imminent and knew that the ruling class would be painfully aware that his prediction of fourteen years earlier was coming true.

On Itai Doshin
- Itai Doshin Ji -
I have received the white winter robe and the thick-quilted one, as well as one kan of coins, through the offices of Hoki-bo. Hoki-bo and Sado-bo and the believers at Atsuhara, united in their courageous faith, proved the true strength of itai doshin.

If itai doshin (many in body, one in mind) prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals, whereas in dotai ishin (one in body, different in mind), they can achieve nothing remarkable. The more than three thousand volumes of Confucianism and Taoist literature are filled with examples. King Chou of Yin led 700,000 soldiers into battle against King Wu of Chou and his 800 men. Yet King Chou's army lost because of disunity while King Wu's men defeated him because of perfect unity. Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure. Yet a hundred or even a thousand people can definitely attain their goal if they are of one mind. Though numerous, the Japanese will find it difficult to accomplish anything, because they are divided in spirit. On the contrary, I believe that although Nichiren and his followers are few in number, because they act in itai doshin, they will accomplish their great mission of propagating the Lotus Sutra. Many raging fires are quenched by a single shower of rain, and many evil forces are vanquished by a single great truth. Nichiren and his followers are proving this.

You have served the Lotus Sutra with devotion for many years, and in addition, you demonstrated remarkable faith during the recent incident at Atsuhara. Many people including Hoki-bo and Sado-bo have told me so. I have listened carefully and reported everything to the god of the sun and to Tensho Daijin.

I should have replied to you earlier, but there was no one who could bring this letter to you. Nissho left here so quickly that I had no time to finish writing before his departure.

Some people may be wondering whether the Mongols will really attack again, but I believe that invasion is now imminent. An invasion would be deplorable--it would mean the ruin of our country--but if it does not happen, the Japanese people will slander the Lotus Sutra more than ever and all of them will fall into the hell of incessant suffering.

The nation may be devastated by the superior strength of the Mongols, but slander of Buddhism will cease almost entirely. Defeat would be like moxa cautery which cures disease or acupuncture which relieves pain. Both are painful at the moment but bring happiness later.

I, Nichiren, am the emissary of the Lotus Sutra, while the Japanese are like King Mihirakula who eliminated Buddhism throughout India. The Mongol Empire may be like King Himatala of the Snow Mountains, a messenger from heaven sent to punish those hostile to the votary of the Lotus Sutra. If the Japanese repent, they will be like King Ajatashatru who became a devout follower of Buddhism, thereby curing his own leprosy and prolonging his life by forty years. Like Ajatashatru, they will profess faith in spite of their earlier disbelief, and awaken to the entity of life.

With my deep respect,

The sixth day of the eighth month

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, page 153.