On Persecutions Befalling the Sage


You may rest assured that nothing, not even a person possessed by a powerful demon, can harm Nichiren, because Brahma, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four heavenly kings, the Sun Goddess, and Hachiman are safe-guarding him. Strengthen your faith day by day and months after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage.

(Passage from “On Persecutions Befalling the Sage”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p996-999)

Background
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu in the midst of the Atsuhara Persecution on the first day of the tenth month of 1279 to his followers in general. The Daishonin specifically indicated at the end of that this letter should be kept by Shijo Kingo, who was leading the community of believers in Kamakura.

Around 1275, propagation efforts in the Fuji area began to produce significant results under the leadership of Nikko Shonin. There were a number of converts among both priests and laity, but as the number of new believers increased, so did official pressures. In Atsuhara, a village in the Fuji District of Suruga Province, believers were subjected to a series of threats and harassments known collectively as the Atsuhara Persecution. On the twenty-first day of the ninth month in 1279, 20 believers, all farmers, were arrested on false charges. They were brought to the residence of Hei no Saemon, the deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs, in Kamakura where they were detained and interrogated.

Upon receiving reports on the persecution, the Daishonin wrote this letter in which he explained the significance of such persecutions for the Law and encouraged his disciples that they must now “summon up the courage of a lion king” to confront and overcome this persecution.

Explanation
Through his own experiences of overcoming severe hardships such as his exiles to Izu and Sado, Nichiren Daishonin declared in this passage that no one, “not even a person possessed by a powerful demon”, could harm him because of the protective functions f life and the universe that he summoned forth through his resolute faith.

The Daishonin was expressing his conviction that as long as our faith is strong and steadfast, any malicious scheme or hardship cannot defeat us due to the powerful protection we receive from our environment.

This letter was written in the midst of the Atsuhara Persecution, while 20 peasant believers – arrested and detained on account of trumped-up charges – were being severely interrogated. The Daishonin encouraged all his disciples to never fear any threat or persecution and to face their difficulties with courage.

He told his disciples in this passage to strengthen their resolve all the more and advance with faith, urging them to “strengthen your faith day by day and month after month”.

To carry on with our faith is, in one sense, a battle between the strength of our innate Buddhahood and the negative functions, both internal and external, to deny it.

In this regard, the Daishonin cautioned us, “Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage.”

If we succumb to doubts and fears in the face of difficulties without trying to resolve them, or if we become complacent and oblivious to the need to constantly challenge against our weaknesses, then life’s negative influence will find its way into our innermost selves.

If an airplane loses the power o propel itself, it will lose speed and eventually crash. The plane is in its most stable state when it is powerfully moving forward.

The same is true of our faith. It is of utmost importance to ceaselessly advance towards the realisation of kosen-rufu and out individual happiness. The ultimate serenity and stability of our lives are to be found in constant challenge. When we cease to advance in faith, we have already begun to backslide and be defeated in faith.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “Our work to advance the movement of kosen-rufu is also an unending struggle. The Daishonin taught that it is a battle between the Buddha and the devilish forces. Therefore any slackening in our efforts to strive against the incessant onslaught of enemies – namely, devilish functions – represents not stagnation but rather regression and, ultimately, defeat.”

Faith for absolute victory is found in our constant challenge against our weaknesses and in our daily discovery of our innate Buddhahood through resolute prayer to the Gohonzon. Those who keep challenging themselves are already winning over their own limitations, and that is the greatest victory one can achieve in life.

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