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Gosho Study

‘Letter from Sado’

Photo by Jonny Gios / Unsplash.


At the time Nichiren wrote “Letter from Sado,” in March 1272, persecutions targeting his disciples in Kamakura were intensifying, and a growing number of people were abandoning their faith. Despite his own dire circumstances, Nichiren wrote this letter to encourage others. He urged them to summon up the heart of a lion king like he himself had, no matter what kind of difficulties they faced.

Nichiren guarantees that we will attain Buddhahood if we strive to propagate the Mystic Law without hesitation. He also explains that though we meet persecutions because of our past slander of the Law, we can expiate our negative karma by refuting the “enemies of the Lotus Sutra” and thus gain “the blessings obtained by protecting the Law.” In this way, he teaches the principle of transforming karma into mission. He also expresses pity for those who abandoned their faith.


“Only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove one’s real strength. When an evil ruler in consort with priests of erroneous teachings tries to destroy the correct teaching and do away with a man of wisdom, those with the heart of a lion king are sure to attain Buddhahood. Like Nichiren, for example.” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 302)


“The heart of a lion king” describes the courage to never be defeated no matter the difficulty. It also describes the strength that comes from faith.

Priests from various other sects colluded with government officials to persecute and try to kill Nichiren, “a man of wisdom.” Seeing his persecutors’ true nature, he likens them to animals that fear the strong and threaten the weak. He faced these persecutions head-on, believing, as he writes, that “only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove one’s real strength.” The life state of the Buddha shines in those who strive with the heart of a lion king, willing to face anything for the sake of peace and justice.

In his statement “Like Nichiren, for example,” he expresses his conviction that genuine disciples would stand up with the same awareness as he had and thereby win in their struggles. Those who continue to exert themselves with their mentor will become Buddhas, because the courage derived from the oneness of mentor and disciple becomes the power to transform any difficulty into victory.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


“Neither non-Buddhists nor the enemies of Buddhism can destroy the correct teaching of the Thus Come One, but the Buddha’s disciples definitely can. As a sutra says, only worms born of the lion’s body feed on the lion. A person of great fortune will never be ruined by enemies, but may be ruined by those who are close.” (WND-1, 302)


For his disciples who were facing severe persecutions, Nichiren emphasizes that genuine happiness lies in living for the “great vow” of spreading the correct teaching for the happiness of the people, which itself is the great desire of the Buddha. When we align ourselves with this desire, we can bring forth unlimited wisdom and power from within.

When this letter was written, the entire nation faced disaster. Numerous people had died from epidemics and the threat of the Mongols invading Japan loomed. Therefore, Nichiren said, “Since death is the same in either case, you should be willing to offer your life for the Lotus Sutra.” From the perspective of the vast universe, we may seem as insignificant as “a drop of dew” or “a speck of dust.” But when we live for the Buddha’s great vow, our lives fuse with the Buddhahood of the universe, forever remaining in the orbit of that indestructible life condition. Nichiren concludes this letter by referring to the passage from the Lotus Sutra “we and other living beings all together may attain the Buddha way” (WND-1, 1003). He thus stresses the importance of wishing for the happiness of oneself and others. We can contribute to this noble cause and live a life of purpose and fulfillment by encouraging others and sharing Buddhism.

Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


“Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword. Worthies and sages are tested by abuse. My present exile is not because of any secular crime. It is solely so that I may expiate in this lifetime my past grave offenses and be freed in the next from the three evil paths.” (WND-1, 303)


The process of making a fine sword requires repeatedly heating and pounding iron to strengthen it and remove impurities. Likewise, meeting difficulties allows us to face our weaknesses and bring out our true potential and strength.

Nichiren says that the life-threatening persecutions he experienced are “not because of any secular crime” but are a way for him to make amends for his past slander of the Law. By meeting these persecutions, he says, he can avoid the so-called three evil paths—hell, hunger and animality.

This principle for transforming karma holds true for us today. By practicing Nichiren Buddhism, we can overcome any suffering, change our karma and find fulfillment and satisfaction now and into the future. The troubles we face are opportunities to transform our karma and do our human revolution. Our faith will certainly be tested from time to time, but deciding now that we won’t ever be defeated is the way to establish a foundation of eternal happiness.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

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