Questions and Answers on the Object of Devotion Chapter1-1

Questions and Answers on the Object of Devotion Chapter1-1


QUESTION: In the evil world of the latter age, what should ordinary men and women take as their object of devotion?

Answer: They should make the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra their object of devotion.



Known as one of the ten major writings of Nichiren Daishonin, this letter was sent to Jōken-bō, a priest at Seichō-ji temple in the province of Awa. The Daishonin as a youth entered the priesthood at Seichō-ji under the tutelage of a senior priest named Dōzen-bō.

Jōken-bō, also a disciple of Dōzen-bō at the same temple, had studied there alongside the Daishonin. In 1253 when the Daishonin first declared his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at that temple, criticizing the Nembutsu, or Pure Land, and other schools, Jōken-bō with a fellow disciple Gijō-bō helped the Daishonin escape attack by the steward of the area, Tōjō Kagenobu, who was an ardent Pure Land believer.

This letter, written in the ninth month of 1278, represents the Daishonin’s answers to questions raised by Jōken-bō concerning the object of devotion, or Gohonzon.

First, citing passages from the sutras and commentaries, the Daishonin explains that the object of devotion for ordinary people in the Latter Day of the Law should be the daimoku, or title, of the Lotus Sutra. Then he demonstrates the erroneous nature of the objects of devotion adopted by the other major Buddhist schools of his day. With regard to the object of devotion of the True Word school and of the True Word tradition within the Tendai school, he refutes it with particular strictness, revealing the fundamental errors made by the three great teachers, Kōbō, the founder of the True Word school, and Jikaku and Chishō, the patriarchs of the Esoteric tradition of the Tendai school.

Next, he cites from history the case of the eighty-second sovereign of Japan, Emperor Gotoba. Gotoba continued to hold power as retired emperor and attempted a military coup against the Kamakura shogunate headed by Hōjō Yoshitoki in what is known as the Jōkyū Disturbance. Gotoba and his supporters were defeated, however, though they had prestigious True Word priests pray for victory over Kamakura. Gotoba was exiled to the island of Oki and came to be called the Retired Emperor of Oki. The Daishonin also recounts the case of the earlier battle between the Taira clan and the Minamoto clan. The Taira clan had Emperor Antoku on their side (Antoku was a grandson of Taira no Kiyomori) and had eminent priests of Tendai Esotericism pray for the defeat of the Minamoto clan, but they were eventually destroyed.

With these factual proofs, the Daishonin says that if his warnings are ignored and the True Word ceremonies are employed in an attempt to overcome the Mongol forces, “it will on the contrary be the country of Japan that is overcome; as the Lotus Sutra says, ‘the injury will rebound upon the originator.’” This will become, he says, a third proof of the destruction brought about by True Word prayers.

The Daishonin closes by stating that this object of devotion, which embodies the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, had never appeared before, and that he has accomplished what the bodhisattvas Superior Practices and Boundless Practices were called upon to accomplish.

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