Offerings From Nichiren’s Disciples Efforts to Spread the Law
The Lay Nun and the Lay Priest of Ko
While I was there [in Sado] . . . you and your husband, the lay priest of Ko, being apprehensive of the eyes of others, brought me food in the middle of the night. Never fearing even punishment from the provincial officials, you are persons who were ready to sacrifice yourselves for me. Thus, though it was a harsh land, when I left, I felt as if the hair that had been shaved from my head were being tugged from behind and as if with each step I took I were being pulled back. (“Letter to the Lay Nun of Ko,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 596)
Due to unjust persecution by authorities, Nichiren Daishonin was exiled on Sado Island from 1271 to 1274. Being exiled to Sado was a serious punishment, second only to the death penalty.
While on Sado, Nichiren endured intense hardships—government officials kept strict watch over him, he lived without adequate food and clothing, and Nembutsu practitioners, who harbored hatred toward him, made attempts on his life. Yet, despite such challenging circumstances, one after the other, people converted to his teachings. The lay nun and the lay priest of Ko were among his principal disciples on Sado who staunchly protected the Daishonin.
Though only two letters to the couple remain, it is thought that Nichiren wrote many letters to them. The passage above is from “Letter to the Lay Nun of Ko,” which he composed in June 1275. He recounts: “While I was there [in Sado] . . . you and your husband, the lay priest of Ko, being apprehensive of the eyes of others, brought me food in the middle of the night. Never fearing even punishment from the provincial officials, you are persons who were ready to sacrifice yourselves for me” (WND-1, 596).
We can sense his deep appreciation for the couple’s valiant efforts to support him despite danger to their own lives. Had they been caught supplying him with food, they could have been banished or imprisoned. And although they were thought to be relative beginners in their practice of Nichiren’s teachings, they demonstrated deep faith through their offerings that saved him from starvation.
And when the time came for Nichiren to leave Sado to return to Kamakura, he expressed his warm sentiment toward them, writing, “Thus, though it was a harsh land, when I left, I felt as if the hair that had been shaved from my head were being tugged from behind and as if with each step I took I were being pulled back” (WND-1, 596).
In addition, this and many other letters allude to the deep ties this couple shared with Abutsu-bo and his wife, Sennichi, who also were staunch supporters of Nichiren on Sado. They seemed to have been on good terms, encouraged one another regularly and shared unwavering unity to protect Nichiren, not fearing even acts of oppression by the ruling authorities.
For instance, at the beginning of this letter, Nichiren writes: “I have received three hundred coins from the wife of Abutsu-bo. Since you two are of the same mind, have someone read this letter to you and listen to it together. I have also received the unlined robe you sent all the way from the province of Sado to the mountain recesses of Hakiri Village in Kai Province” (“Letter to the Lay Nun of Ko,” WND-1, 595).
From this passage, we understand that the lay priest of Ko made the long journey from Sado to Minobu to visit Nichiren, bearing an unlined robe from his wife and 300 coins from the lay nun Sennichi. The lay nun of Ko must have thoughtfully offered the unlined robe, hoping that it would help Nichiren endure the hot summer days.
It was because of such powerful bonds among Nichiren’s disciples as well as their deep faith in and appreciation for their mentor’s teachings that kosen-rufu advanced dynamically and ceaselessly throughout the island of Sado.
Q & A:
What’s the difference between May Contribution and Sustaining Contribution?
Both are vital sources of support for the SGI-USA’s expansion efforts. The difference lies in how the funds are contributed and their timing or scheduling. There is no difference, however, in the way the SGI-USA uses the funds to support its new and existing buildings, projects and activities, including this year’s 50,000 Lions of Justice events.
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