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Gosho Study

What do I do when someone is giving me a hard time?

Answer: By never abandoning your faith or integrity, you will find a way forward.

Photo by zhao zhenhao / Getty Images.

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

Nichiren Buddhism teaches that a positive shift within our hearts can change everything. That is why chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to transform our state of life and behavior is the key to changing difficult relationships. 

Many people misunderstood, vilified and persecuted Nichiren Daishonin. Yet his integrity and character moved many to support and protect him. 

The story of his relationship with Nakaoki no Jiro demonstrates how genuine humanity can move some-one’s heart. 

Facing Unending Hostilities

Nichiren faced intense opposition after proclaiming his teaching on April 28, 1253. Based on the Lotus Sutra, his teaching of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo aimed to help all people achieve an inner transformation and reveal their full, enlightened potential. 

In contrast, Buddhist schools in Japan at that time had lost sight of Buddhism’s original intent of leading all people to lasting happiness. Instead, senior clergy allied themselves with political authorities to gain power and position and taught the people to abandon hope for happiness in this life and seek salvation after death.

To awaken people to the real power of Buddhism, the Daishonin denounced these schools for their misleading teachings that weakened people’s will to live and thus only worsened their suffering. For this, he faced unending opposition and hostility: 

People … revile me as though I were an enemy of their parents or their lord, or a sworn foe from a past existence. Heads of villages, districts, and provinces hate me as though I were a traitor. (“Letter to the Lay Priest Nakaoki,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1007)

Followers of the Nembutsu school, in particular, hated him. Some of them held influential positions in the military government and persecuted him, culminating in the failed attempt to behead him at Tatsunokuchi and subsequent exile to Sado Island in 1271. Many believed that Nichiren would not survive the island’s harsh environment and hostile populace. 

Buddha Nature Manifesting From Within Brings Protection From Without 

Nevertheless, though many island inhabitants were staunch Nembutsu believers and inclined to hate the Daishonin, a number of them ended up supporting him and practicing his teachings. His encounter with Nakaoki no Jiro is a significant example.

Nichiren writes:

Although many of the islanders hated me, there was an old man called the lay priest Nakaoki no Jiro [who befriended me]. He was as wise as he was advanced in years, and he enjoyed robust health and commanded the esteem of the local people. Probably because this venerable man said of me, “This priest can be no ordinary person,” his sons did not strongly resent me. (“Letter to the Lay Priest Nakaoki,” WND-1, 1007)

Nakaoki no Jiro likely knew that many Sado residents were critical of Nichiren. But in witnessing his genuine, upstanding character, Nakaoki must have realized that the government’s accusations against him were false. 

Considering how hostile people were toward Nichiren, Nakaoki no Jiro’s declaration that this was “no ordinary person” was a brave move. Because of his good character and trust throughout the community, his words changed how his family and attendants viewed the Daishonin. Nakaoki no Jiro’s actions represent the protective functions the Lotus Sutra teaches will safeguard its practitioners.  

Ikeda Sensei says:

Nothing leaves a greater impression than a person’s genuine humanity. … In accord with the principle of the Buddha nature manifesting itself from within and bringing forth protection from without, Nichiren’s inner goodness manifested itself in his actions. His actions then struck a chord in the hearts of the people he met, drawing forth their own inherent goodness. As much as Nichiren strove to win the trust of those he met, though, he never abandoned his beliefs in the process or compromised his integrity. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 3, p. 57)

Because Nichiren always strove to spread the Law and lead people to absolute happiness, wise, good-hearted people always appeared to support and protect him. 

Our humanity can move the hearts of others. No matter how difficult our relationships may be, we can change them. The important thing is always to continue developing our character and treat our family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances with sincerity, respect and care. 

It may take more time than we’d like, but as long as we strive in this way, we will eventually create genuine ties of friendship and trust. 

As Sensei says:

Faith is manifested in our actions and Buddhism is manifested in society. Kosen-rufu means each person becoming a bright beacon in their community.

I hope you will lead admirable lives as optimistic and trustworthy leaders, making each person you encounter an ally and expanding your network of supportive friends. (March 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 37)

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

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