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Gosho Study

How do I deal with those who have disappointed or discouraged me? 

Answer: Strive to become someone who appreciates what others have done for you, even if you forget what you’ve done for others.

Yoshio Taniguchi / EyeEm / Getty Images.

This study series focuses on Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples, who faced challenges we can still relate to today, and his enduring encouragement to them, which we can apply to dynamically transform our lives.

Nichiren Daishonin expresses this insightful point: 

The old fox never forgets the hillock where he was born;[1] the white turtle repaid the kindness he had received from Mao Pao.[2] If even lowly creatures know enough to do this, then how much more should human beings! … What can we say, then, of persons who are devoting themselves to Buddhism? Surely, they should not forget the debts of gratitude they owe to their parents, their teachers, and their country. (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 690) 

In these first lines of the letter “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” he says that expressing gratitude is an important and fundamental part of life and a central tenet of Buddhist practice.

This time, rather than focus on Nichiren’s relationship with his disciples, we will look at his relationship with his teacher, Dozen-bo, to better understand the power of living with gratitude.

Lasting Gratitude for Support and Protection

Nichiren wrote “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” in July 1276 upon hearing that his teacher, Dozen-bo, had passed away. He sent the letter to Joken-bo and Gijo-bo, requesting that it be read at the tomb of their late teacher and at Seicho-ji, a temple in Awa Province (present-day Chiba Prefecture), where Nichiren first declared his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. 

The Daishonin had studied under Dozen-bo from age 12 at Seicho-ji. This is where he also encountered senior priests Joken-bo and Gijo-bo, who later converted to his teaching. 

Praying to become the “wisest person in Japan” (“Letter to the Priests of Seicho-ji,” WND-1, 650), Nichiren aimed to fully grasp the teachings of Buddhism to help his parents and all people resolve life’s sufferings and attain enlightenment. He later left Seicho-ji to further his studies in Kamakura, the seat of the military government, and at other centers of Buddhist learning in Kyoto and Nara. As a result, he concluded that the essence of the Buddha’s teachings is contained in the Lotus Sutra and encapsulated in the sutra’s title, Myoho-renge-kyo. 

At age 32, he returned to Seicho-ji and, on April 28, 1253, declared that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the sole Buddhist practice that can enable all people to reveal their enlightenment. 

He also pointed out the doctrinal errors of the popular Pure Land school, which angered Tojo Kagenobu, the local steward and a staunch Pure Land believer, who ordered his arrest. Dozen-bo, also a Pure Land believer, didn’t openly defend his student but quietly arranged to have Joken-bo and Gijo-bo lead him to safety. 

Nichiren always appreciated Dozen-bo and the other two priests who had supported him in his youth and protected him. 

Having Boundless Appreciation Brings Limitless Strength

For the nearly three decades that followed, Nichiren faced incessant attacks and persecutions, yet he remained undaunted and resolved to open the way for the happiness of all humanity. 

His teacher, Dozen-bo, unable to abandon his belief in the Pure Land teachings, never converted to Nichiren’s teaching or fully supported him. “In spite of all that,” Nichiren writes, “I thought a great deal of him, and when I heard the news of his death, I felt as though, whether I had to walk through fire or wade through water, I must rush to his grave, pound on it, and recite a volume of the Lotus Sutra for his sake” (WND-1, 729). 

He always felt a deep appreciation for his teacher, who had at times disappointed him but nonetheless helped him become who he was. 

Not only that, Nichiren in other writings even expressed gratitude for his oppressors, saying: “It is not one’s allies but one’s powerful enemies who assist one’s progress. … I am grateful when I think that without them I could not have proved myself to be the votary of the Lotus Sutra” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 770).

Having appreciation for those who support us (no matter how much or how little)—like our parents, teachers, those in our communities—and even for the people and situations that challenge us can inspire us to keep doing our best. 

Ikeda Sensei says: 

What makes a person great? [My mentor, Josei Toda,] said: “True greatness means that, even if you forget what you’ve done for others, you never forget what others have done for you and always do your utmost to repay your debts of gratitude. Therein shines the light of Buddhism. Such people radiate integrity, depth of character, bigheartedness and charm.” Even if you forget what you’ve done for others, never forget what others have done for you—these are very profound words. (Nov. 25, 2005, World Tribune, p. 2)

While our relationships with others are often complicated, we can find great strength and benefit in always appreciating what others have done for us and how they help shape who we are.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


  1. A commentary on the Chinese classic Elegies of Ch’u by Chu Hsi of the Sung dynasty describes how the old fox invariably turns his head toward the hillock where he was born. ↩︎
  2.  In A Collection of Stories and Poems, the Young Mao Pao, who later became a general of the Chin dynasty, once traded his clothing with a fisherman to save a turtle’s life. Later, pursued by enemies, Mao Pao reached the banks of the Yangtze River, where the turtle he had rescued appeared and carried him to safety on the opposite shore. ↩︎

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