The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra
Winning With “the Strategy of the Lotus Sutra”
“Spur yourself to muster the power of faith. Regard your survival as wondrous. Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other.” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1001)
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in 1279 to his trusted disciple Shijo Kingo, a samurai who lived in Kamakura.
Several years before, Kingo had encouraged his lord, Ema Mitsutoki, to embrace Nichiren’s teaching. Ema was a patron of the True Word Precepts school priest Ryokan, who despised and had conspired to do away with the Daishonin. Believing false reports about Kingo spread by Ryokan’s followers, Ema had threatened to confiscate Kingo’s land holdings.
In accord with Nichiren’s guidance, however, Kingo continued to sincerely support his lord. Because of his diligence and loyalty, Kingo inspired a change of heart in Ema, who in 1278 increased Kingo’s landholdings. While this was clear actual proof of his faith, it also sparked increased jealousy among his fellow samurai.
“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra” is the Daishonin’s response to Kingo’s report that he had been ambushed but managed to escape unharmed.
Nichiren praises Kingo, saying his survival is due to his “usual prudence and courage, as well as your firm faith in the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 1000). Today, too, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that we act as Kingo did to survive and thrive—being prudent in taking the necessary precautions to ensure our health and safety, having the courage to calmly deal with any situation and maintaining firm faith no matter what.
Nichiren also encourages Kingo to strengthen his faith and regard “the strategy of the Lotus Sutra” as the most important key to victory.
Winning With “the Strategy of the Lotus Sutra”
In this passage, the Daishonin assures us that the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra” enables us to prevail over each of life’s challenges and win ultimate happiness. For us, this means carrying out the basics of Buddhist faith, practice and study.
In this letter, Nichiren advises Kingo not to presume he survived the assault simply due to his skill in swordsmanship. Without good fortune and other inner virtues or “rewards” that result from Buddhist practice, he explains, skill or strategy alone is no guarantee of success.
Compassionately aiming to dissuade Kingo from growing proud or complacent, he urges him to regard his survival as “wondrous” and warns him to remain vigilant in case of another attack.
Perhaps because he was writing to his samurai disciple, the word “strategy” in this letter refers specifically to military strategy. For us today, strategy means a method to obtain the best results in any endeavor. There are many guides that teach strategies for success, and we may have our own preferred methods.
But if we rely on these alone, we may succumb to complacency and imprudence. When we hesitate to deal with problems from the standpoint of faith, we leave the door open for our innate human weakness, or what Buddhism calls our “fundamental darkness,” to dominate our thoughts and actions.
When we face every hardship with the deep awareness that we are doing so for the sake of kosen-rufu and for our own growth, we are employing the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra” in the truest sense.
Employing the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other,” in contrast, means to make faith the foundation for winning. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with confidence and determination causes the life state of Buddhahood to emerge, filling us with great wisdom and courage. With this as our basis, we can make the best plans and take effective action to overcome any obstacle or devilish function that challenges us in life. We will never come to an impasse.
In discussing this passage, Ikeda Sensei says:
The principles for maintaining health, succeeding at work, leading a happy life, creating peace, harmony and prosperity for all—each of these, ultimately, is governed by the Mystic Law. When we manifest the powerful life force of Buddhahood from within us through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can bring forth the courage to move forward, the wisdom to triumph and the compassion to encourage and support others. (Sept. 4, 2009, World Tribune, p. 5)
When we face every hardship with the deep awareness that we are doing so for the sake of kosen-rufu and for our own growth, we are employing the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra” in the truest sense. It means setting our minds on winning and praying to the Gohonzon with a deep determination to achieve a clear result based on faith, through which we can encourage others.
Ultimately, Shijo Kingo won over every hardship because he earnestly followed Nichiren’s advice and sought to spread the Mystic Law with the same resolve as his mentor.
When we pray to the Gohonzon and base our lives on Nichiren’s writings—a manual on how to employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra to realize happiness for all humanity—we can break through every obstacle and enact triumphant dramas of making the impossible possible.