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Gosho Study

‘The Opening of the Eyes’

Key highlights from the Gosho

Photo by Allen Zaki.


Through Nichiren’s unwavering devotion to awaken people to their inner potential through spreading the correct, most effective way to practice the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, he incurred the wrath of powerful figures in Japanese society. Some government officials and priests of other sects colluded to oppress him and his followers; he was exiled twice and physically attacked multiple times.

Nichiren wrote “The Opening of the Eyes” while living under harsh conditions in exile on a Sado Island. Written to Shijo Kingo, a prominent disciple, it was to be shared with all of Nichiren’s disciples in Kamakura. In this treatise, one of Nichiren’s most important writings, he reveals his identity as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

With persecutions toward Nichiren intensifying, many people, including his own followers, questioned why he had so many troubles. He claimed to be practicing the Lotus Sutra exactly as it taught; that is, he claimed to be the “votary of the Lotus Sutra.” If so, then, why didn’t he receive the protection from the heavenly deities that the Lotus Sutra promised? Many had abandoned their faith over the issue. In this work, Nichiren addresses these doubts, explaining that the sutra predicts that anyone who practices correctly will surely meet with persecution. Thus, his current situation proves that he is in fact the votary of the Lotus Sutra.


“This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law.”(The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 280)


When he wrote these lines, Nichiren Daishonin was facing the greatest difficulty in his life: He had recently survived an aborted execution and was now in exile under harsh conditions on Sado Island. As a result, many of his followers began to doubt him, and most had abandoned their faith. They wondered: Why did the heavenly gods not protect him? Wasn’t he the votary of the Lotus Sutra?

In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren answers these questions. He explains that “protection” is not about having no problems but about having an undefeatable life condition no matter the problems. He helps people see the true nature of his troubles and makes a bold declaration: “Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law.”

Nichiren faced life-threatening struggles not just for his own happiness but to show all people the way to happiness. When we, too, live with such a determination, we’ll find that there is nothing we need fear. Nichiren wasn’t swayed by any obstacle, and he showed the way to genuine happiness for all people into the eternal future.

This fighting spirit lives on in the mentors and disciples of Soka, with the disciples willingly devoting themselves to walking this path, just as the mentors have. A life of absolute victory lies in leading a life based on the shared vow of mentor and disciple.


“The Contemplation on the Mind-Ground Sutra states: ‘If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present.’” (WND-1, 279)


Why did Nichiren Daishonin, the votary of the Lotus Sutra who practiced exactly as the sutra taught, meet persecutions? He explains that one reason is because he slandered the Law in the past and therefore must face the consequences.

This passage explains the Buddhist principle of cause and effect: What you see now results from past causes, and the key to the future lies in the causes we are making in this very moment. It does not help at all to blame the environment or the people around us for the sufferings we experience now. Changing karma, then, is a challenge to take responsibility for the causes we’ve made in the past as we strive to make positive causes for the future, no matter the struggle, believing that we have the power to overcome anything.

Nichiren writes elsewhere, “The sufferings of hell will vanish instantly” (WND-1, 199). In other words, any karma from the past will vanish once the sun of Buddhahood rises in our hearts. A resolve to change oneself in this moment severs the chains of karma and becomes the light of hope to brighten our future.


“Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith. Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes.” (WND-1, 283)


Nichiren Daishonin vowed to willingly devote his life to the great cause of kosen-rufu. Here, he calls on his disciples to stand up with him, to share his struggle.

Of course, when we take on the same vow as Nichiren, we will inevitably face devilish functions that will try to obstruct our Buddhist practice, just as the sutra says. Doubt and discouragement are inevitable, but the important thing is that we never let them defeat us. Rather, we must keep going, remembering the “promises [we] have made.”

Doubt and discouragement come from the most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life—disbelief in our vast potential. We can’t enjoy a genuine, lasting happiness unless we break through this fundamental ignorance. But we can do so, Nichiren teaches, with faith.

When “the crucial moment comes”—when we meet obstacles—then and there is our chance to transform our karma and build a stronger foundation for happiness. We should be firmly convinced that, as Nichiren teaches, we have the power to overcome any suffering.

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