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Gosho Study

When facing a serious challenge, I suffer from indecisiveness. What can I do?

Answer: Being proactive is the key to breaking through inertia. Chant, study Nichiren’s writings and take action to help others.

Photo by OsakaWayne Studios / Getty Images.

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

We might step back or doubt ourselves and others when the unexpected happens or things don’t work out even after much effort. 

Through our Nichiren Buddhist practice, however, we can overcome such deadlocks. In reading “Encouragement to a Sick Person,” Nichiren Daishonin’s letter to Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, we can learn how to sweep away confusion and doubts and establish unshakable conviction and happiness. 

Uphold Conviction in the Lotus Sutra

Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro was thought to have been the steward of Ueno Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province. Before he converted to Nichiren’s teaching sometime between 1260 and 1264, he had practiced the Nembutsu, or Pure Land, teachings. These teachings placed faith in an all-powerful Buddha believed to reside in a distant pure land. They encouraged passive reliance on that Buddha to grant them rebirth in a tranquil, pure land after death, resulting in a sense of powerlessness among its believers.

Aside from Hyoe Shichiro and his immediate family, it seems that many of his relatives living in Ueno Village practiced Nembutsu. In addition, members of the ruling Hojo clan, who supported priests promoting Nembutsu, had a strong presence in the province. 

So, when Hyoe Shichiro fell gravely ill in December 1264, this may have prompted his relatives to urge him to discard Nichiren’s teaching and return to practicing Nembutsu to ensure that he could be reborn in the pure land upon death. 

When Nichiren heard of his illness, he sent a letter addressing Hyoe Shichiro’s spiritual plight and urging him to have conviction in the Lotus Sutra. He writes: 

Should you depart from this life before I do, you must report to Brahma, Shakra, the four heavenly kings, and King Yama.[1]Declare yourself to be a disciple of the priest Nichiren, the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. Then they cannot possibly treat you discourteously. But if you should be of two minds, alternately chanting the Nembutsu and reciting the Lotus Sutra, and fear what others may say about you, then even though you identify yourself as Nichiren’s disciple, they will never accept your word. (“Encouragement to a Sick Person,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 82)

Learning From Nichiren’s Example 

As “the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan,” the Daishonin spread the life-affirming teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Lotus Sutra, to enable all people to open the limitless state of Buddhahood within their lives. And because his teaching and actions challenged the established Buddhist schools of his day, he faced intense persecution. 

In 1263, after his pardon from a nearly two-year exile in Izu, he returned to Kamakura. In 1264, he visited his hometown in Awa Province to reunite with his ailing mother while continuing his propagation efforts there. 

In November 1264, at Komatsubara, several hundred armed Nembutsu believers ambushed Nichiren and about a dozen of his followers. Nichiren sustained a sword cut to his forehead and a broken hand, and two of his disciples perished. 

The month after this attack, his wounds still healing, he wrote to Hyoe Shichiro, declaring: “This [attack] has only strengthened my faith in the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 82). As if to rouse him from his sickbed, Nichiren urges him to bring forth this same powerful conviction. With steadfast faith as “a disciple of the priest Nichiren,” he has nothing to fear.

A Caution Against Being of ‘Two Minds’

Nichiren also warns Hyoe Shichiro against being of “two minds,” or, in this case, practicing both the Lotus Sutra and the Nembutsu. 

In our daily lives, having “two minds” leaves us feeling powerless. It might appear as: negativity that prevents us from advancing in faith; being swayed by our circumstances; blaming others for our problems or expecting others to fix them; or not taking action out of fear or hesitancy.

But when, learning from Nichiren’s example, we work to open the way for the happiness of all people, we can develop the same conviction he had. 

Ikeda Sensei explains how we can do this: 

In terms of our daily practice, this means joyously chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with pride in being members of the SGI and taking part in activities to promote kosen-rufu. Striving this way in our Buddhist practice will activate the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions and the three existences, and we ourselves will shine eternally as Buddhas. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 7, p. 54)

While we might waver from time to time in the face of adversity, there are plenty of ways to reground ourselves. Chanting always comes first! We can also study Nichiren’s writings and Sensei’s guidance, seek from seniors in faith and take action. One small act can open the way forward. 

Hyoe Shichiro’s life came to a close three months after receiving Nichiren’s letter. He faced his final chapter with steadfast faith, setting an example for his wife and children, who played essential roles in supporting Nichiren and spreading his teachings.

By using our daily Buddhist practice to face one challenge after another, we will never be deadlocked and can open the way for others to win in their lives. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA study department


  1. These are gods and kings depicted in Buddhist mythology. Brahma and Shakra are the two principal tutelary gods of Buddhism. The four heavenly kings serve Shakra and protect the four quarters of the world. King Yama is king of the world of the dead who judges and determines the rewards and punishments of the deceased. ↩︎

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