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Buddhist Study

Prayer Filled With Conviction

I am praying that, no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters[1] will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground. (“On Rebuking Slander of the Law,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 444)

In the passage above from “On Rebuking Slander of the Law and Eradicating Sins,” Nichiren Daishonin expresses his earnest prayer to protect his disciples who have been diligently striving to spread his teaching amid great opposition. While this letter is generally thought to have been written to Shijo Kingo, there are no clear details to verify this.

However, the letter indicates that its recipients, a husband and wife, were being subjected to intense persecution in Kamakura due to their efforts in faith. Nevertheless, they went out of their way to send offerings to Nichiren who was in exile on Sado Island.

Just before the quoted passage, the Daishonin thanks them for their offerings. He writes, “If it were not for your consideration, I do not know how we could manage to keep the whole group in provisions” (WND-1, 444).

In turn, despite his own life-and-death struggles as an exile on Sado, Nichiren conveys that he is offering intense prayers for his disciples’ safety in distant Kamakura. In addition, he continued to send detailed letters of encouragement to his disciples throughout his exile.

SGI President Ikeda explains: “It is a passage imbued with [Nichiren’s] fervent prayers for their safety in the midst of dangerous times. It emanates his powerful determination to protect them by ‘praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground.’ Nichiren’s prayer is based on a vow—a vow grounded in the belief that his inner determination could transform any circumstance. He was firmly resolved to break through every difficulty and protect all his disciples through his prayer” (November 2015 Living Buddhism, p. 42).

Nichiren exemplifies in this passage the staunch determination and conviction with which to pray.

Practice for Self and Others

Nichiren’s prayer in the above passage is also an expression of the basic Buddhist principle of practicing for oneself and for others.

Often, many of us begin practicing Nichiren Buddhism hoping to climb out of our own suffering or to reach our own goals, but we may quickly find that only focusing on our personal problems can leave us feeling heavy, as though our immediate obstacles are immovable and impossible to change.

The key to transcending such feelings is to pray with a genuine desire to also see those around us become happy. Through praying and taking action for others, we can expand our own lives, deepen the genuine joy we experience, find the wisdom to perceive our obstacles as opportunities to grow, and thereby gain the vitality and desire to win over each challenge.

This effort to care for others while developing our own lives is the essence of what we call “bodhisattva practice” in which we seek enlightenment for ourselves and for others.

President Ikeda explains: “As we do our best for the welfare of others, we break out of our narrow lesser self that is focused only on personal concerns, and gradually expand and elevate our life state. The commitment to others’ well-being is what propels us to transform our life state and carry out our human revolution” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, p. 15).

When we help those around us overcome their struggles, chanting fervently to help them, we can find the hope, courage and wisdom to tackle our own issues. The repeated interchange between helping others and challenging our own lives enables us to truly expand our lives and develop a broad, resilient, joyful state of life that is never swayed by anything.

Especially when we are facing setbacks and struggles, and when supporting those dealing with the most difficult challenges, let’s keep in mind the indomitable spirit of Nichiren to pray “as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground.”


  1. The ten demon daughters appear in the Lotus Sutra and are described as protectors of those who uphold the sutra. ↩︎

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