GUIDANCE
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General Stone Tiger



BACKGROUND:

This letter was written in October (intercalary) 1278 when the Daishonin was suffering from some illness. Shijo Kingo had evidently called on the Daishonin to treat him. The Daishonin vividly describes the difficulties of living at his isolated retreat and expresses his gratitude for various gifts of food, clothing and medicine.

In the fall of 1277, a virulent epidemic was sweeping through Japan and, just when things looked their worst for Kingo, Lord Ema contracted the disease and was near death. Lord Ema had earlier deprived Kingo of his estate; now in critical condition, he had no recourse but to ask Kingo for treatment. Lord Ema quickly recovered and the next year, he rewarded Kingo handsomely, returning the lands he had confiscated. He again displayed deep trust in Kingo by assigning him three new tracts of land.

However, Kingo's life was still in danger, because his fellow samurai were now intensely jealous of the favors he was receiving, and the Daishonin advises him to avoid the dangerous trip to Mount Minobu in the future. Kingo is warned to be careful while traveling and to keep faith strong so he can continue to enjoy the protection of the Buddhist gods.

General Stone Tiger

On the twenty-second of this month I received all that you sent me from Shinano--three kan of coins, a sack of polished rice, fifty rice cakes, one large and one small bamboo container of sake, five bundles of dried persimmons and ten pomegranates, as well as the list you enclosed with these gifts.

A sovereign is supported by the people, and they in turn live under his protection. Clothes protect us from cold and food sustains us, just as oil keeps a fire burning and water supports fish. Birds nest high in the trees in fear that men will harm them, but they come down to feed and are caught in snares. Fish living at the bottom of a pond fear that it is too shallow and dig holes to hide in, yet lured by bait, they take the hook. No treasure possessed by man is more precious than food and drink, clothing and medicine.

I, Nichiren, am not as healthy as others, and in addition, I dwell in this remote mountain forest. This year was especially difficult, with widespread epidemics and famine in spring and summer, which worsened in autumn and winter. My sickness grew worse again, too, but you prescribed various medicines and sent them to me along with quilted silk clothes. Thanks to your remedies, I improved steadily; I have now recovered and feel much better than before. The Yuga-ron of Bodhisattva Maitreya and the Dairon of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna both state that if one's illness is caused by immutable karma, even the most excellent medicine will turn to poison, but if he believes in the Lotus Sutra, poison will change into medicine. Although unworthy, Nichiren propagates the Lotus Sutra; hence devils have competed to deprive him of food. Understanding this, I have no complaint, but I believe that I survived this time only because Shakyamuni Buddha sent you to assist me.

So much for that. I was extremely concerned about your journey home last time, and I am overjoyed to hear that you arrived safely in Kamakura. Such was my anxiety that I asked everyone who came here from Kamakura about you. One said that he had met you at Yumoto, another that he had encountered you further on at Kozu, and when a third told me that he had seen you in Kamakura, I felt greatly relieved. From now on, you must not come to visit me in person unless absolutely necessary. When you have something urgent to tell me, send a messenger. Indeed, I was deeply worried about your last trip. An enemy will try to throw you off guard so that he may attack. If you should have to travel, do not spare the cost of a good horse. Bring along your best soldiers to defend you against a surprise attack, and ride a horse which can easily carry you in your armor.

In the eighth volume of the Maka Shikan and in the eighth volume of Miao-lo's Guketsu it is said, "The stronger one's faith, the greater the gods' protection." This means that the protection of the gods depends on the strength of one's faith. The Lotus Sutra is a keen sword, but its might depends upon the one who wields it.

Among those who propagate this sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, who could compare with Shariputra, Mahakashyapa, Kannon, Myo'on, Monju and Yakuo? Shariputra and Mahakashyapa, who were of the two vehicles, had destroyed all illusions of thought and desire, thus freeing themselves from the six paths. The others, all bodhisattvas, had eradicated the forty-one illusions and were approaching perfection, like the harvest moon on the night before it reaches fullness. Nevertheless Shakyamuni Buddha refused to entrust the mission of propagation to any of these people and gave it instead to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Thus these Bodhisattva of the Earth are the ones who had thoroughly forged their faith.

The mother of the mighty warrior General Li Kuang was devoured by a ferocious tiger. He spied the beast and shot it with an arrow, but then discovered that what he had seen was only a rock. The arrow lodged itself deep in the rock. He was surprised and tried to duplicate his feat but could not penetrate the stone a second time. Later he came to be known as General Stone Tiger. Your strength of purpose is comparable to his. Though enemies lurk in wait for you, your resolute faith in the Lotus Sutra has forestalled persecutions before they could begin. Realizing this, you must strengthen your faith more than ever. It is impossible to say all I want to in one letter.

With my deep respect,

Nichiren

The twenty-second day of the tenth month in the first year of Koan (1278)

Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, page 225.