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Gosho Study

‘The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra’

Photo by David Beber.


Nichiren wrote “The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra” to Shijo Kingo, who had, some years prior, incurred the wrath of his feudal lord, Ema, after trying to convert him to Nichiren Buddhism.

He eventually regained his lord’s trust by continuing to serve him sincerely and by following Nichiren’s advice in the matter. But some jealous fellow samurai still had it out for him and set up an ambush.

This letter is Nichiren’s response to Kingo’s report that he had survived the attack. Overjoyed to hear of Kingo’s safety, Nichiren points out that what enabled him to survive were three things: his “usual prudence,” “courage” and “firm faith in the Lotus Sutra.” He urges Kingo to summon up even stronger faith, reminding him that one who upholds and spreads the Lotus Sutra will always be protected.


“It is a matter of rejoicing that your usual prudence and courage, as well as your firm faith in the Lotus Sutra, enabled you to survive unharmed.” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1000)


Shijo Kingo’s life was in constant danger because of the jealousy of some fellow samurai. Recognizing this, Nichiren had given Shijo Kingo some detailed practical advice for his own safety, which helped Kingo survive when these samurai eventually ambushed him. Overjoyed to hear that Kingo was unharmed, Nichiren tells him there were three reasons why.

First is Kingo’s “usual prudence,” which means that he paid close attention to even minor details every day. Second is his “courage” to confidently face difficulties at the crucial moment. Third is his “firm faith in the Lotus Sutra,” despite all the troubles that he had faced. Faith, of course, is the foundation for everything, as both prudence and courage arise from earnest prayer to the Gohonzon.

The important thing is for us to always be determined to avoid accidents. We must never allow ourselves to be careless, thinking that things will somehow work out just because we practice. The key to being free of accidents is to summon forth our wisdom and courage through our strong and sincere prayers.


“It is the heart that is important. No matter how earnestly Nichiren prays for you, if you lack faith, it will be like trying to set fire to wet tinder. Spur yourself to muster the power of faith.” (WND-1, 1000–01)


One’s heart determines everything—this can be said to be the conclusion of Nichiren Buddhism. No matter what field we are in, we need knowledge and a good strategy to succeed. But ultimately what determines our success is our mindset or attitude, what is in our hearts. When we can defeat the negative thoughts that try to hold us back and come to truly believe “I am a Buddha!” then we can raise our life condition and transform our environment.

But, of course, the human heart is fickle. It changes from one moment to the next. That’s why we do gongyo and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo twice a day. Our twice-daily practice solidifies Buddhahood as the foundation for our lives. It’s also important to pray to unite our hearts with the heart of the mentor, who believes that we can absolutely overcome all our problems and have all our prayers answered. We must share this same belief.

As the Daishonin writes in this passage, “No matter how earnestly Nichiren prays for you, if you lack faith, it will be like trying to set fire to wet tinder.” In other words, it is up to each of us to take full responsibility for our lives in our prayers and actions.

Moreover, sharing the mentor’s determination to bring happiness to others and praying toward that end is the path to a life of happiness and victory. Therefore, Nichiren calls out: “Spur yourself to muster the power of faith.” Let’s decide that to fight and win based on faith is the only way to live. When we do, we will help open a new era of hope and respect in the world.


“Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other. ‘All others who bear you enmity or malice will likewise be wiped out.’ These golden words will never prove false. The heart of strategy and swordsmanship derives from the Mystic Law. Have profound faith. A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered.” (WND-1, 1001)


Most of us have some kind of plan to succeed in life and be happy. We know we need to work hard, challenge ourselves, be creative and so on. To ensure that all these strategies achieve the best possible outcome, Nichiren urges us to base them on one thing: “the strategy of the Lotus Sutra.” This means to put our faith and practice first.

From one perspective, Shijo Kingo was able to survive being attacked by his fellow samurai because he was a skilled swordsman. But from a deeper perspective, his survival ultimately resulted from his faith, Nichiren says.

The Lotus Sutra passage quoted here teaches that when we embrace and uphold faith in the Mystic Law, we can break through any negativity that’s holding us back. In other words, when we strive for kosen-rufu—taking action to create the best lives, supporting those around us and cheerfully spreading Buddhism—we can bring forth from within us the power of the Buddha, including unlimited wisdom and courage.

Our various plans and methods work best when we base ourselves on strong faith. Hence Nichiren’s conclusion: “Have profound faith. A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered.”

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