Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain - A Vow for the Absolute Victory of Mentor and Disciple

I wonder what good causes formed in your past lives have enabled all of you to visit me, Nichiren. But whatever you might discover in examining your past, I am sure that this time you will be able to break free from the suffering of birth and death. Chudapanthaka was unable to memorize a teaching of fourteen characters even in the space of three years, and yet he attained Buddhahood. Devadatta, on the other hand, had committed to memory sixty thousand teachings but fell into the hell of incessant suffering. These examples exactly represent the situation in the world in this present latter age. Never suppose that they pertain only to other people and not to yourselves.

(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1, p602)

This letter was written at Minobu in the first year of Kenji (1275) and sent to the lay priest Nishiyama, who lived in Nishiyama Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province. Nishiyama was a sincere believer who often visited the Daishonin at Minobu, bringing offerings and provisions.

One view identifies him as Nikko Shonin’s (Nichiren Daishonin’s closest disciple and successor) maternal grandfather, lay priest Kawaii while another view identifies him as Nikko Shonin’s uncle, lay priest Kawai Matajiro.

In the previous year before this letter was written (in 1274), the Mongols invaded Japan just as the Daishonin had predicted.

Around the time this letter was written, there was widespread fear of an impending second attack by Mongolia and the Kamakura authorities asked the True Word School to pray for the defeat of the enemies, turning a deaf ear to the Daishonin’s admonitions not to adhere to misguided teachings.

It is against such a backdrop that the Daishonin penned this Gosho, which emphasize on the importance of discarding attachments to misguided teachings, following a good teacher and surrounding oneself with “good friends” (positive influences) in carrying out one’s Buddhist practice.


To encounter a great teacher, or mentor, is the source of supreme happiness in life. This is because, such an encounter with a great mentor enables us to expand our capacity and unleash the inherent potential of Buddhahood from within our lives.

In cultivating this relationship with one’s mentor, it is most important that each time we encounter an adversity in life, we take it as an opportunity to overcome it with the same indomitable spirit as our mentor.

Our mentor never gives up in any struggle and as a genuine disciple; we must deepen our vow to struggle in the same mind as our mentor.

The lay priest Nishiyama, who received this letter from Nichiren Daishonin, lived in an area where much of the land was held by authorities who harboured great animosity towards his mentor, the Daishonin.

In addition, Nishiyama was a leading figure of the Kawai clan, to which Nikko Shonin, Nichiren Daishonin’s foremost disciple, belonged.

These naturally made Nishiyama a target of critism from powerful people in the region. Despite this, Nishiyama continued striving in his Buddhist practice as a disciple of the Daishonin.

In praise of the selfless efforts and pure faith of Nishiyama, the Daishonin wrote in this passage, “I wonder what good causes formed in your past lives have enabled all of you to visit me, Nichiren.”

He then promised, “But whatever you might discover in examining your past, I am sure that this time you will be able to break free from the sufferings of birth and death.”

The bond of mentor and disciple transcends the cycles of birth and death, permeating the three existences of past, present and future.

It is this bond that will ensure our eternal connection with the Mystic Law and true happiness.

That is why when the Daishonin said “whatever you might discover in examining your past”, he was exhorting us to always return to the prime point of mentor and disciple by living out a life dedicated to the eternal vow of striving together with one’s mentor no matter what happens in life.

When we base our lives on faith infused with that original vow, everything, including sufferings associated with living and dying, will serve as nourishment to develop our state of life and solidify our genuine happiness.

Following this, Daishonin cited the example of Chudapanthaka, a follower of Shkyamuni Buddha who was unable to memorize a teaching of only fourteen words even in the span of three years.

Nevertheless, he attained Buddhahood due to his sincerity. Devadatta, in contrast, was so intellectually brilliant that he memorized sixty thousand teachings, but he eventually fell into hell because of his arrogance and jealousy.

The Daishonin compared the pure-hearted Chudapanthaka with Devadatta stating that their example represents the situation in the world in this present latter age.
What the Daishonin meant is that these examples in Buddhism are not simply stories of the past, but apply precisely to the people of their time.

There can be no doubt that they apply to us today, as well, in that they describe fundamental truths of human nature and what is essential in enabling us to attain Buddhahood.

The vital point that we can learn from this example cited is that we must maintain a strong resolve and pure heart in always seeking the guidance and example of our mentor.

While striving to actualize our mentor’s teachings, even though it may be just one single phrase, through our words, thoughts and deeds, we are able to engrave these teachings into our lives.

Only when we do so can we inherit our mentor’s legacy of victory and win in all aspects of our lives and in our activities for kosen-rufu.

SGI President Ikeda said, “The shared commitment of teacher and disciple is one of the key teachings of the Lotus Sutra because through the correct transmission of this commitment from teacher to disciple, the correct teaching of Buddhism is passed on and widely spread. The karmic ties linking mentor and disciple are eternal. Through the unceasing joint struggle of mentor and disciple, the great path of kosen-rufu will continue forever.”

With this profound vow, let us strive for the absolute victory of mentor and disciple.

1. Chudapanthaka – A disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha, he received the prophecy of enlightenment in the “Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples” (8th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

2. Devadatta – He first followed Shakyamuni Buddha as a disciple but discarded faith due to his arrogance and strong attachment to fame and status. He committed the three cardinal sins (causing disunity in the Buddhist Order; injuring the Buddha abd killing an arhat) and fell into hell.

3. Sixty thousand teachings – Refers to the sacred teachings of Brahmanism in India. It is said that there are sixty thousand teachings set forth by the founders of Brahmanism and hence the term, “sixty thousand teachings”.

Translated and adapted from the January 2010 issue of The Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.