It Is the Heart that Counts
Nichiren sent this letter from Mount Minobu to Nanjo Tokimitsu, the steward of Ueno Village in Suruga, in the ninth month of 1281. It was written in response to the report that Tokimitsu was ill and offerings sent to Nichiren through a messenger.
The “heart” is infinitely vast and profound. Buddhism teaches that “it is the heart that is important”. (WND, p 1000) If one’s heart is filled with the resolve to strive together with one’s mentor, to dedicate one’s life to the happiness of our fellow members and friends, and to realize the grand vision of kosen-rufu, one’s life will surely be filled with boundless benefits and good fortune.
In this letter, Nichiren first cites a parable from the sutra relating how the boy Virtue Victorious, who offered a mud pie to the Buddha, was later reborn as King Ashoka because of his sincere spirit of offering. Nichiren then elaborates in this passage that Shakyamuni Buddha teaches that “one who makes offerings to the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the latter age for even a single day will gain benefit a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million times greater than one would by offering countless treasures to the Buddha for one million kalpas.” This statement is based on a passage that appears in the “Teacher of the Law” (loth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
The Latter Day of the Law is an age where it is far more difficult to spread the teachings of Buddhism than during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. The persecutions and hardships that those who spread the Mystic Law in the Latter Day surpass those during Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime. And one who courageously dedicate his or her life to realizing their great vow for kosen-rufu, to lead all people to happiness in such a difficult and defiled age is a votary of the Lotus Sutra. Making offerings to support the votary of the Lotus Sutra and the movement advanced by the votary of the Lotus Sutra is an act that connects directly to this great vow of kosen-rufu and is equivalent to supporting and assisting the realization of this great vow. For this reason, the sincere act of making offerings accrue boundless benefit and good fortune in one’s life.
In fact, around the time when this letter was written, Nichiren’s disciples were struggling intensely against various adversities. Amidst the aftermath of the Atsuhara Persecution (1279), the authorities continued to oppress the community of Nichiren’s disciples relentlessly. On top of this, epidemics and famines followed one after another and the disciples were facing great financial difficulties. The recipient of this letter, Nanjo Tokimitsu, who played an extremely important role in supporting Nichiren’s disciples during the Atsuhara Persecution, had his estate taxed heavily by the Kamakura shogunate so that he had difficulty maintaining his family. On top of this, he was suffering from an illness.
Yet, Tokimitsu’s heart was always with Nichiren, deeply concerned over his mentor’s well-being. Despite his impoverished predicament, he continued to support his mentor in whatever way he could. Nichiren responded by lauding this sincere “heart” of Tokimitsu, assuring him that he would certainly be reborn in the pure land of Eagle Peak in the next life and enjoy eternal happiness that spans over the three existences of life.
Key points of the Gosho passage:
- Making offerings (whether it be monetary, time or effort) towards kosen-rufu is equivalent to sharing the struggle together with one’s mentor in realizing the great vow for kosen-rufu. In Buddhism, the most important factor in making offerings is “one’s heart”. When one makes offerings with a heart to sincerely realise kosen-rufu, great good fortune will accrue from such a heart.
- The Lotus Sutra teaches that to make offerings in the present times of the Latter Day of the Law is far more greater than making offerings during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. This is because the persecutions and obstacles of practicing and propagating Buddhism in the latter day is much more severe than during the time of Shakyamuni. So if one can make offerings to kosen-rufu at this present time, despite facing various hardships and difficulties, one would gain good fortune that is immense beyond one’s imagination.
- This principle of good fortune arising from a sincere heart of making offerings is proven in the lives of such dedicated disciples as Nanjo Tokimitsu who made offerings to Nichiren despite the fact that he himself was facing great persecutions and financial difficulties. In the end, the great good fortune Tokimitsu received was clearly many times greater than the offerings he had made. Most importantly, Nichiren assured Tokimitsu that he would certainly attain Buddhahood in this and subsequent lifetimes and enjoy eternal happiness that spans over the three existences of life.